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In Connecticut, Kamala Harris says fight for reproductive rights is a fight for ‘fundamental rights’

Kamala Harris Visits CCSU
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
Vice President Kamala Harris greets an audience at Lawrence Davidson Hall on the campus of Central Connecticut State University. She joined U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes and Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson to discuss reproductive rights and to voice her support for Hayes in the upcoming November election.

Appearing in Connecticut Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris reiterated the Biden administration’s commitment to protecting reproductive rights, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.

When the highest court struck down the constitutional right to abortion, “we all had to stand and fight for these fundamental rights of freedom and liberty and dignity and choice,” said Harris, who spoke at Central Connecticut State University.

Harris cautioned that the Supreme Court’s ruling implicitly indicated that the justices were looking next at other areas of individual freedoms.

“Clarence Thomas said the quiet part out loud because for those of us who’ve read the decision and the concurring opinions, we know that it is very much in the trajectory of those who have taken away this right of privacy,” Harris said. “That they are looking at same-sex marriage and the right to contraception.”

Harris pointed to the University of Idaho, which issued guidance that discourages handing out contraceptives to students.

“It’s already happening,” she said.

Harris highlighted the Biden administration’s initiatives to protect abortion access. President Joe Biden signed an executive order in August for Medicaid to help those seeking abortions travel out of state to undergo the procedure.

Kamala Harris Visits CCSU
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to the audience during a discussion on reproductive rights with U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes and Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson. Harris said the recent attempts across the U.S. to restrict access to abortion and birth control make people feel like they do not have power. “Let’s not overlook that there’s so much about what’s happening now that’s profoundly steeped in judgment about women’s sexuality,” she said.

Also taking part in Wednesday's conversation: U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes of the 5th Congressional District and Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood.

“The stories we’ve heard over the months have been incredibly dramatic,” Johnson said.

Hayes introduced Johnson and Harris and praised the work of Connecticut lawmakers to protect reproductive rights at the state level.

Connecticut lawmakers passed legislation to make the state a “place of refuge” for people seeking abortions. The “safe haven” legislation is the first of its kind in the nation.

Gov. Ned Lamont, who attended the event, had a message for people outside Connecticut: “It’s a safe harbor here to protect you, protect your rights.”

But Hayes said she believes recent federal action on abortion means "the rights of people here in Connecticut could be at risk."

She also called attention to the disproportionate impacts of the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on people of color.

"Black women are three times more likely to die than white women in pregnancy or childbirth," Hayes said.

Hayes is in the middle of a reelection campaign against Republican George Logan.

After Harris' visit, Logan issued a statement saying that he has “consistently supported women’s rights, including a woman’s right to choose.”

Logan and the Republican National Committee also said Harris missed a key opportunity to address an issue that is on many voters' minds: inflation.

“Try as they might, Kamala Harris and Jahana Hayes will not be able to distract voters from Democrats’ failed agenda that is marked by skyrocketing costs from the grocery store to home heating bills," said RNC spokesperson Andrew Eisenberger, in an emailed statement.

Kamala Harris Visits CCSU
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
Vice President Kamala Harris (right), Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson (center) and U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes discuss reproductive rights in front of an audience on the campus of Central Connecticut State University. Harris also used the opportunity to voice her support for Hayes, who is running for reelection in November. “This is not a political event,” Harris said. “But it is a fact that in 34 days there is a midterm coming up.”

Updated: October 5, 2022 at 3:50 PM EDT
This story has been updated.
Sujata Srinivasan is Connecticut Public Radio’s senior health reporter. Prior to that, she was a senior producer for Where We Live, a newsroom editor, and from 2010-2014, a business reporter for the station.