Kamala Harris calls US Supreme Court threat to Roe v Wade an 'assault on freedom'

Vice president accuses Republicans of 'weaponising' the issue

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US Vice President Kamala Harris attacked a potential Supreme Court overruling of Roe v Wade and criticised Republicans for "weaponising" the issue after the divisive topic was thrust into the spotlight for the midterm elections.

"If the court overturns Roe v Wade, it will be a direct assault on freedom," Ms Harris told attendees at a gala hosted by Emily's List, an organisation that works to get pro-choice Democrats elected to office.

"Some Republican leaders are trying to weaponise the use of the law against women," Ms Harris said.

"How dare they. How dare they tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her own body. How dare they try to stop her from determining her own future. How dare they try to deny women their rights and their freedoms?"

The vice president's remarks come after a document leaked late on Monday night showed the Supreme Court is poised to overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, which protects a women's right to abortion.

The draft, published by Politico, showed that five conservative Supreme Court Justices – with the majority opinion written by Samuel Alito – had voted to strike down the abortion ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday confirmed the document's authenticity.

“We’re not going back. We are not going back,” the vice president declared.

Ms Harris was scheduled to deliver remarks at the organisation before the leak, but the looming decision of the court brought added significance to her address.

Her speech signalled the Joe Biden administration's staunchest defence of abortion rights since the leaked publication.

“It has never been more clear which party wants to expand our rights and which party wants to restrict them,” she said in her speech. “It has never been more clear. It has never been more clear which party wants to lead us forward, and which party wants to push us back.”

Already, Democratic leaders have sought to rally their voters around the threat that abortion will soon be outlawed in many states. Midterm elections in November that will decide control of Congress had so far hinged on inflation, immigration, education and the coronavirus pandemic, and the Democratic party appeared to be facing defeat.

Changing the topic to abortion and women’s health may alter the political landscape, because polls have consistently shown a majority of Americans oppose overturning Roe.

The overturning of Roe v Wade would immediately end constitutional protections for abortion rights and trigger new laws and restrictions. Federal legislation could also limit or eliminate access to abortion in states where it is still available.

Ms Harris said that in 13 states, “women would lose access to abortion immediate and outright” if the court goes through with overturning Roe.

Previous Democratic efforts to codify Roe into law have failed, because the party does not have enough support to overcome the Senate's 60-vote filibuster threshold that would open the door to enact legislation.

Ms Harris called on allied Americans to “link arms in this fight. If you stand for freedom, for self-determination, for the right to privacy, if you stand for these principles, stand with us".

“Let us fight for our country, and for the principles upon which it was founded, and let us fight with everything we have got,” she said.

Roe v Wade protests in Washington

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: May 04, 2022, 2:54 PM