LGBTQ Agenda: Vice President Harris meets with reproductive rights leaders

  • by Eric Burkett, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday September 20, 2022
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Vice President Kamala Harris met with leaders from 19 reproductive rights and social justice organizations to discuss the fallout of the U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision that overturned the right to abortion. Photo: The White House via Twitter
Vice President Kamala Harris met with leaders from 19 reproductive rights and social justice organizations to discuss the fallout of the U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision that overturned the right to abortion. Photo: The White House via Twitter

Almost four months after the U.S. Supreme overturned Roe v. Wade, undermining nearly half a century of reproductive freedom, Vice President Kamala Harris met with leaders of the nation's top reproductive and civil rights groups to discuss the impact of that decision.

Harris met in Washington, D.C. September 12 with leaders from 19 organizations, including Imani Rupert-Gordon, executive director of the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights. Other groups included the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the NAACP.

The meeting, held in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, followed a July letter sent to President Joe Biden by the 19 organizations, in which they linked social justice and reproductive freedom, asking for a meeting to discuss the Supreme Court's ruling. In June, the court ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization that the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion. Since then, many states have sought to ban the practice, while others, such as California, have gone in the other direction, expanding access to those traveling from other states.

Golden State residents will also be voting on Proposition 1 on the November 8 ballot, which adds a layer of protection to California's privacy statutes and enshrines abortion access into the state constitution.

"In overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court stripped women of the federal constitutional right to control their own bodies, ignoring nearly 50 years of precedent," the letter stated. "The decision undermines decades of gains for gender equity and reproductive freedom. Abortion access is an economic and racial justice issue."

At the meeting, Harris told attendees the court's decision showed just how much work needs to be done to ensure that women have access to "all that they need to thrive."

"Because certainly we know that with the Supreme Court having made the decision in Dobbs to take a constitutional right, that had been recognized, from the people of America, from the women of America — has created a health care crisis in America and has highlighted the fact that, as we all know, we must be vigilant and we must stand shoulder-to-shoulder to ensure that every voice is represented in a way that allows them equal access to all that they need to thrive. And this moment post-Dobbs highlights the fact that we still have a lot of work to do," Harris said before the meeting, according to a copy of her remarks released by the White House.

Much of the meeting was off the record, with no access for the press, but the group of 19 organizations issued a statement afterward, calling for "urgent" legislative action to confront the "rollback on reproductive health access."

"[A]s the deteriorating crisis of democracy continues to overtake the country, the need for federal legislative intervention could not be more urgent," their statement, issued September 12, read. "With the anti-democracy wave of radical state and federal lawmakers openly coordinating with violent extremists on a campaign of suppression and intimidation underway, they are dangerously close to dismantling American democracy and establishing autocratic rule. These cynical efforts to preserve political power at all costs are a threat to our democracy and need to be challenged directly and undeniably."

The 19 leaders called abortion access an "economic and racial justice issue."

"The Supreme Court's disastrous decision to overturn Roe v. Wade stripped women of the federal constitutional right to control their own bodies," they said in the statement. "The denial of that access cannot be separated from other social justice issues — voter disenfranchisement, policing abuse, criminal injustice, poverty, economic inequity, housing inequity, LGBTQ+ rights, the immigration crisis, food insecurity, medical bias, environmental injustice etc. — that disproportionately harm the communities we serve. Sixteen states so far have implemented abortion bans — and more will follow.

"Together, we are prepared for the long fight that lies ahead to safeguard reproductive rights, voting rights, and other freedoms — and we are grateful to the Biden-Harris administration for their continued work to protect these essential rights," the leaders stated. "We know that the survival and thriving of Black people and the other communities we serve depend on our success, and we need the continued leadership of the Biden-Harris administration to be successful."

Rupert-Gordon, a Black lesbian, told the Bay Area Reporter in an email that reproductive rights are an LGBTQ issue and that her organization was committed to protecting access to abortion.

"It was an honor to be in the room with Vice President Harris and leaders from the civil rights movement, as well as reproductive health, rights and justice movements," Rupert-Gordon stated. "NCLR is proud to work at this intersection.

"The fight for abortion rights is an LGBTQ issue, a racial justice issue, and an economic justice issue," she added. "NCLR is proud to show the breadth and depth of commitment to the fundamental rights that we know the Constitution promises us, despite what this Supreme Court says. We pledged our strong support for the administration's wide-ranging efforts to protect access to abortion care and joined with our colleagues in urging further bold action."

LGBTQ Agenda is an online column that appears weekly. Got a tip on queer news? Contact Eric Burkett at e.burkett@ebar.com

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