Remarks by Vice President Harris During Roundtable on Reproductive Rights

Published: Thu Mar 16 2023

Grand View University
Des Moines, Iowa

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, good afternoon, everyone. It is good to be back in Iowa and, in particular, to be with these extraordinary leaders.

You are local leaders. You are state-wide leaders. You are national leaders on so many issues and, in particular, on the issue that we are convened to discuss, which is the right that every person in our nation should have to be able to make decisions about their own body and their life.

We have this conversation in the context of an action by the highest court in our land, last year - the United States Supreme Court - where the United States Supreme Court took a constitutional right, that had been recognized, from the people of America, from the women of America.

And what we have seen then is, sadly, what we predicted would happen in the months that have followed that decision, where people around our country are concerned, afraid, confused, desperate, in many ways feeling very alone in terms of what are their options and what are their rights since that decision came down from the Court.

And even before, we have seen states in the United States of America that have been proposing or passing laws that would criminalize healthcare providers, literally laws that provide jail time for a doctor or a nurse who does what they took an oath to do, which is to treat their patients in a way they believe is in the best interest of their patients.

We have seen what I would consider and do consider, as a former prosecutor, to be an immoral approach to survivors of rape or incest where, in states, there is even no exception after an individual has survived such an act of violation to their body and then, by their state, being deprived of the ability, after that, to make other decisions about their body. It's immoral.

And let's be clear: On this issue, one does not have to abandon their faith or deeply held beliefs to agree the government should not be telling her or any individual what to do with their body.

Let them make that decision if they choose with their priest, with their pastor, with their rabbi, with whomever. But the government should not be telling her what to do with her own body.

So this is the issue that we are discussing.

In the months since that decision, it has also become clearer - in a way that we knew then, but much more clear now - this is not only about reproductive health, this is about basic healthcare.

Look at what we are seeing in terms of litigation that is occurring right now in Texas where politicians are asking a court of law to undo a decision by the FDA that was made on the basis of peer review of the work of medical health professionals 20 years ago that deemed a particular medication, mifepristone, to be safe.

And I'd ask anyone that when you're thinking about what this might mean, for context, look in your medicine cabinet, because what a doctor has prescribed to you - likely to help with issues that are with chemotherapy drugs, or asthma, or blood pressure pills or insulin - that medication your doctor has prescribed probably was able to be prescribed because the FDA approved it through a scientific and medical analysis.

So let us understand the significance of this challenge to an FDA decision and why, as a perfect example of this point, we should all understand that these attacks go beyond reproductive health.

And that is where we find ourselves at this moment in time in our country.

We also know that Iowa is on the frontline in this fight, not unlike the United States as a whole. In Iowa, the leaders at this table know, the latest numbers tell us 61 percent of Iowans - the majority of Iowans - do not support these attacks on reproductive rights.

What we know in Iowa is that there is an attorney general who has joined attorneys general around the country who are asking the court to overturn an FDA-approved medication, mifepristone. There are attorneys general around the country, including here, who are attempting to tell pharmacies to not dispense abortion medication in the state.

At the core of these issues is a foundational issue for our country. And it is the principle that we are founded on which says that we each are entitled to freedom and liberty in its most basic manifestation. And is this not about freedom and liberty the ability to make these decisions about one's own life?

And so I would say to extremist so-called leaders who purport and profess to hail themselves as a beacon of freedom and opportunity: It is important to understand what freedom and opportunity means to real people every day - which calls into question whether we're on the same page about what freedom means.

But I do believe, for the majority of Americans, it means the ability and the freedom to make decisions about their body, the future of their family, and their life.

So, with that, I thank all the leaders who are here today. I'm looking forward to our discussion. I will say that, on this and so many issues, we must continue to also build the coalitions - because we are seeing in many states where there is an attack on reproductive healthcare, there is also an attack on LGBTQ rights, there is also an attack on voting rights, the freedom to love the person you love, the freedom to have access to the ballot box.

And so let us continue, in this fight for these essential principles, also build the coalition around all of the people who understand what is at stake. And in that way, as we build the coalition, let us remind people that they are not alone and that we're all in this together.

So with that, I thank you all, and I thank Senator Wahls for moderating our discussion.

(Conversation begins.)

(Conversation concludes.)

IOWA SENATOR WAHLS: And that brings our open-press portion of the discussion to a close.

Q Madam Vice President, what is the administration's plan of action if the Texas court does overrule the FDA on abortion medication?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, let's just first recognize where we are, which is, again, that a group of elected politicians are attempting to use the court of law to implement a political agenda that would undo the veracity and significance of a medical decision by the FDA about a medication - a decision that was made 20 years ago.

Understand also, the FDA has been approving medication for over 85 years, not only for this medication but for insulin, for asthma medication, for medication for high blood pressure, for chemotherapy medication.

Understand what this means. There is so much about this issue that really does attack very fundamental issues and principles.

And on the fundamental issue at play with that court case is our public health system as a whole. If politicians can start using the court to undo doctors' decisions, imagine where that could lead.

So we take this very seriously. And we are prepared to do whatever we may and can if the court rules in a way that is contrary to what we believe is in the best interest of the public health of America.


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