Vice President Kamala Harris condemned a new Oklahoma law that aims to ban most abortions from the moment of conception Thursday, telling a group of abortion providers that the legislation is “outrageous.”
“I am here today joined by doctors, nurses and leading advocates who are on the frontlines against this war on women’s rights,” Harris said during a virtual meeting with a nurse from Montana and doctors who perform abortions in Kansas, Missouri and Texas.
“Just half an hour ago in Oklahoma, the state legislature passed one of the most extreme abortion bans in the country — a ban that would outlaw abortion from the moment of fertilization,” she said. “Now think about that for a second, from the moment of fertilization. It’s outrageous and it’s just the latest in a series of extreme laws around the country.”
The Oklahoma law bans abortion of “a human fetus or embryo in any stage of gestation from fertilization until birth.” The bill sponsor, GOP state Rep. Wendy Stearman, has said the prohibition doesn’t extend to medications such as Plan B that may block implantation of a fertilized embryo.
The bill changes civil rather than criminal law to accomplish a state abortion ban, allowing for private lawsuits to enforce the ban and legal judgments of up to $10,000 against people who “aid or abet” an abortion.
Women who undergo the procedure aren’t penalized by the law, which also doesn’t restrict abortion in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.
Harris, an attorney who formerly worked as a prosecutor and California attorney general, also said Thursday that she disagrees with the leaked draft of a Supreme Court ruling that would rescind federal abortion rights and allow states to set their own policies.
“Earlier this month, we learned that the United States Supreme Court is poised to strike down Roe. If they do, it will be the first time in the last 50 years at least that the court has recognized a constitutional right only to take it away,” Harris said.
“The strength of our country has always been that we fight to move forward, that we believe in the expansion of rights, not the restriction of rights. So this, when and if it happens, will be a an extreme step backward. And it represents a threat not just to women, but to all Americans.”
Harris added, “The right to privacy that forms the basis of Roe is the same right to privacy that protects the right to use contraception and the right to marry the person you love, including a person of the same sex. Overturning Roe opens the door to restricting those rights.”
Although the Biden administration last year attempted to force nearly all public and private-sector workers to submit to COVID-19 vaccine shots, Harris and President Biden have framed the abortion rights debate as a matter of bodily autonomy and civil liberties.
“This is about our future as a nation, about whether we live in a country where the government can interfere in personal decisions,” Harris said Thursday before conducting a private discussion with the abortion providers.
Roughly two-thirds to four-fifths of Americans favor legal access to abortion in at least some cases, but there are significant regional differences, meaning an overturn of Roe v. Wade would lead to a patchwork of rules that would require women in some cases to cross state lines to access abortions.