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In Arizona, Kamala Harris highlights the fight for abortion two years after Roe v. Wade

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at a Biden-Harris campaign event for reproductive freedom in Phoenix on June 24, 2024, the second anniversary of the overturning of the Roe v. Wade ruling. “The work we're doing right now is absolutely going to have a direct impact on the people of Arizona, on the people of our country, but it's also going to impact people all over the world. That's in our hands now,” Harris said at the event. (Photo by Stella Subasic/Cronkite News)

Two years after the Supreme Court struck down federal abortion law, protesters marched to the courthouse on Monday and Vice President Kamala Harris campaigned in Phoenix to draw attention to the abortion controversy in Arizona.

“The work we're doing right now will have a direct impact on the people of Arizona, on the people of our country, but it will also have an impact on people around the world. That's in our hands now,” Harris said at a Campaign for Reproductive Freedom event in Phoenix.

According to organizers, more than 400 people came to hear the vice president speak about reproductive freedom at Warehouse 215.

After the Women's Health Organization's ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson in 2022 ended constitutional protections that had existed since 1973, states became battlegrounds over abortion rights.

With states no longer constrained by Roe v. Wade, restrictions exploded. After Roe, Arizona imposed a ban on abortion beginning at 15 weeks of pregnancy, well before the fetus is viable. The ban currently in effect makes no exceptions for cases of rape or incest, but does make exceptions for medical emergencies.

From left: Arizona Corporation Commissioner Anna Tovar, actress Francia Raísa and Vice President Kamala Harris discuss reproductive rights in Phoenix on June 24, 2024. (Photo by Stella Subasic/Cronkite News)

From left: Arizona Corporation Commissioner Anna Tovar, actress Francia Raísa and Vice President Kamala Harris discuss reproductive rights in Phoenix on June 24, 2024. (Photo by Stella Subasic/Cronkite News)

“The idea that so-called leaders would tell a survivor of a violent crime against their body, a survivor of an injury to their body, that that survivor has no right or authority to decide what happens next with their body is immoral. And that is exactly what is happening in our country,” Harris said.

In April, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that a near-total ban from 1864 was enforceable under Roe. However, Governor Katie Hobbs signed a bill to repeal it in May, and the legislature immediately placed it on her desk.

The 1864 ban sparked a movement calling for a constitutional amendment to solidify abortion rights. Arizona voters will likely see a referendum in November that would enshrine the right to abortion at the time of fetal viability, or 24 weeks of pregnancy.

In a May poll of Arizona voters, Noble Predictive Insights found that support for the ballot initiative is nearly evenly split: 41% opposed, 41% favored and 18% undecided.

The issue could increase voter turnout. According to a KFF poll, about half of female voters in Arizona would be more willing to vote if the initiative were on the ballot.

“That's a motivating factor for me, among many others,” said Mya Vallejo, a 23-year-old Arizona State University student from Tucson who attended the Harris event in Phoenix. “I'm sure the people in my life who might not have otherwise voted and haven't voted in the past, when you tell them their reproductive health care is at stake, say, 'You better go vote.'”

Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, disagreed. She said Democrats believe abortion will “drive everyone to the polls,” but Arizonans are “most concerned about border security and gas and rent and food. That's what Arizona voters are going to vote on.”

Most states have restrictions on abortion at various stages of pregnancy, and Democrats have enthusiastically addressed the issue in the 2024 election campaign.

Pro-life and anti-life protesters are separated by barriers outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on June 24, 2024. (Photo by Morgan Kubasko/Cronkite News)

Pro-life and anti-life protesters are separated by barriers outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on June 24, 2024. (Photo by Morgan Kubasko/Cronkite News)

“Women across the country are beginning to relive the horror stories from before Roe, and it doesn't matter if they are Democrats, Republicans or independents – they are all now being forced to carry life-threatening pregnancies,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison said in a conference call with media on Monday.

The Women's March Network organized a nationwide “women's strike” with the slogan “We are not going back.” Many of the local demonstrations were led by youth organizations, the group said.

In Arizona, around 200 people registered for a demonstration in Phoenix on Monday morning to advocate for access to abortion.

In Washington, hundreds of people, along with a smaller number of anti-abortion activists, gathered outside the Supreme Court on a hot afternoon to show their support for abortion rights.

Speakers shared testimonies and made calls to action, punctuated by anti-abortion slogans. Anti-abortion protesters chanted “Not your body, not your choice,” while abortion rights activists chanted “Our bodies, our choice.”

Slogans also clashed. Abortion rights organizations distributed blue signs reading “Keep Abortion Legal,” and anti-abortion activists distributed purple signs reading “Stop Abortion Extremism.”

Police escorted some anti-abortion protesters from the crowd and, after about an hour, set up barriers to separate protesters with differing views. Police presence increased over the course of the three-hour event.

Abortion rights and anti-abortion protesters hold signs outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on June 24, 2024. (Photo by Morgan Kubasko/Cronkite News)

Abortion rights and anti-abortion protesters hold signs outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on June 24, 2024. (Photo by Morgan Kubasko/Cronkite News)

“Conservative forces are pushing to roll back women's rights and protections and take us back to another time in our history,” said Tamika Middleton, executive director of the Women's March. “We need to get out of there, we need to take action to make sure we don't go back there.”

Numerous participants in both the protests in Washington and the Harris campaign rally for reproductive freedom in Phoenix stressed the importance of the November election for the future of abortion rights.

“I'm very scared about this election,” said Brittney Donovan, an abortion rights activist from Baltimore. “If (Donald) Trump wins, women's rights are gone.”

She was not much more optimistic about abortion rights if President Joe Biden wins re-election.

“I definitely see the Trump extremists being violent… so it's terrifying either way,” she said.

Harris urged people to vote at the Phoenix event, saying: “This is the moment when fundamental freedoms in our country are under attack. This is a moment when none of us can stand idly by.”

For anti-abortion activists, the second anniversary of the Dobbs ruling is a reason to celebrate, not mourn.

“We are truly celebrating the overturning of Roe v. Wade,” said Constance “Kani” Becker, the 20-year-old executive coordinator of Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising. “We believe that the unborn deserve the same rights as any other human being, and we came here to advocate for them.”

Abortion rights activists and opponents face off outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 24, 2024. (Photo by Morgan Kubasko/Cronkite News)

Abortion rights activists and opponents face off outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 24, 2024. (Photo by Morgan Kubasko/Cronkite News)

Other abortion rights advocates expressed discomfort with state laws restricting access to abortion and similar efforts to restrict reproductive freedom, including assisted reproduction and contraception.

“Honestly, I find it kind of scary that we're now in 2024 and there are people trying to restrict IVF,” said Danielle Barbera, a 39-year-old project manager from Virginia. “Nobody in government should be able to force that on anyone… It's almost like saying, 'I don't trust you guys with what you do with your bodies, and so we're going to take those rights away from you.'”

Vallejo, who said she has been taking the pill since she was 14, worries that access to contraception could also be at stake.

“It scares me,” she said. “It was so appalling and disheartening to see conservatives in the state legislature so passionately advocating for a bill that is geriatric and shouldn't even be up for debate right now.”

Before flying to Arizona, Harris raised similar reproductive freedom themes while campaigning at the University of Maryland, just outside Washington, DC.

She blamed Trump for the overturning of Roe v. Wade in both Maryland and Arizona, citing the appointment of three judges who had voted to overturn Roe.

Harris also stressed that her running mate Biden would sign a law to protect abortion nationwide if he had the opportunity.

(Video by Regan Gallo/Cronkite News)

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