Vice President Kamala Harris argued Wednesday that states passing their own laws regulating abortion had caused the spread of “profound misinformation and disinformation” — a bizarre swipe at federalism in the wake of the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
Harris made the comment during an afternoon discussion on the White House response to the high court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which allowed states to set their own policies on terminating pregnancies.
At one point, the veep held up a small printout of a color-coded map denoting abortion regulations in all 50 states.
“You don’t need to necessarily be able to read the words on the map, but you can see the color coding to understand this map represents our current assessment of the various laws that exist right now in these United States of America,” Harris said. “Different approaches in different states to this issue — which some might argue has been by design to intentionally confuse people about their rights.”
Moments earlier, Harris and President Biden celebrated the outcome of a ballot initiative in Kansas, where Sunflower State voters upheld a 2019 state Supreme Court ruling that the right to an abortion was protected by the state constitution. Abortion is currently legal up to 22 weeks of pregnancy in the reliably conservative Great Plains state.
Biden appeared at the event virtually as he continues to test positive for COVID-19 from a rebound infection.
The president at points struggled to read his script, saying the Dobbs ruling was “wiping out the right to choose incest, abortion — excuse me, incest or having a rape. Or I mean, it just — this is just extreme.”
Harris, speaking after Biden, said that she, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra would discuss “the profound misinformation and disinformation that is out there and can only thrive in an environment where there is confusion.”
Republican-led states generally have much stricter abortion policies than those run by Democrats, but women are legally able to cross state lines to seek out the procedure.
The Biden administration has repeatedly urged Congress to pass legislation enshrining the right to an abortion in federal law, but such a step is unlikely to take place.
Biden also signed an executive order Wednesday requesting that Becerra study the issue of Medicaid reimbursement for poor women who cross state lines for an abortion — though it’s unclear if the federal government can legally finance the care due to a longstanding ban codified in the Hyde Amendment.
“People are scared when they look at these laws that are being passed and they understand what it means for themselves or someone they love,” said Harris, the first female vice president. “They are concerned, they are confused.
“When you look at a map … what we know is that there is a need for clarity around the rights of individuals and states in this moment.”