Remarks by Vice President Harris at a Political Event on Reproductive Rights
6:57 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: You know! Hey, Bison! (Applause.)
Please have a seat. Please have a seat.
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
THE VICE PRESIDENT: (Laughs.) Well, let me start where — Brittany, where are you? Where did she go? Brittany?
This is not on. (Changes microphones.)
Brittany, you are extraordinary. We — my sister, my soror. We talked backstage. And, you know, I was talking to some of the incredible leaders who are here just before I walked out. And it takes an incredible, particular kind of courage to tell your story — a story that is so personal and private.
And you know, I — you know, my mother taught me many things. And she would say to me, “Honey, there’s a big difference between a secret and what’s private.” What’s private is: It’s yours, and if you choose to share it, you can but you don’t have to. It’s yo’ business.
And for you, Brittany, to share something so private for the sake of why I know you did, which is to give voice to so many women who have had this experience and who must be seen and heard — and in that way, you are carrying the voice of so many people who are not here right now, maybe some who are, but who need to be seen and heard and understood and respected.
And can we please give it up to Brittany for her courage? (Applause.)
Or — or should I say Dr. Brittany? (Laughs.) (Applause.)
So let me — I want to thank the heads of NARAL and Planned Parenthood and Emily’s List and the ACLU who are all here. (Applause.) Where are you? Thank you for the leadership.
There are members of Congress here.
And, of course, there are the students of my alma mater and the one and only Howard University. (Applause.) You know.
You know, the first time I came to Cramton was during freshman orientation. And I stood in the back of the room — I’ll never forget — during orientation, and I would meet that day, as it turned out, people who became lifelong friends, people to whom I became a godparent to their children. There is so much about my education here that informed everything about who I am today.
In fact, the first office I ever ran for was what was then called Liberal Arts Student Council, Freshman Class Representative at Howard University. (Applause.)
It was a very difficult race. I ran against Shelly from New Jersey. But, you know, I’m from Oakland, so it worked out. (Laughs.)
And think about that. And now I stand here. Now I stand here, proud to run for reelection with President Joe Biden — (applause) — as Vice President of the United States of America — (applause) — so we can finish the job.
So I think it’s very important — as you have heard from so many incredible leaders — for us, at every moment in time, and certainly this one, to see the moment in time in which we exist and are present, and to be able to contextualize it, to understand where we exist in the history and in the moment as it relates not only to the past, but the future.
And I will say to everyone here that we are living, I do believe, in a moment in time where so many of our hard-won freedoms are under attack, and this is a moment for us to stand and fight.
You know, when you think about the fact that on this issue of a woman’s right — a person’s right to make decisions about their own body and how that right is under attack — if you think about it, I say to my fellow Bison: When we think about the role of the United States Supreme Court and all that is supposed to be, and yet, in our recent memory, the highest court of our land — Thurgood’s court — took a constitutional right that had been recognized — recognized from the people of America, from the women of America.
Fundamental freedoms are under attack in our country today. And it is the tradition of this university and, dare I say, the tradition of our country to fight for freedom, to fight for rights, to fight for the ability of all people to be who they are and make decisions about their own lives and their bodies. (Applause.)
This is the moment we’re in.
And think about what happened after the highest court in our land did what it did. Think about what happened. (Applause.)
I see you guys. (Laughter.)
Think about what happened. So the highest court in the land took a constitutional, and then so-called leaders — extremist so-called leaders started proposing and passing laws that would criminalize healthcare providers.
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Literally laws that provide for jail time for doctors and nurses and people who took an oath to do the work of taking care of other people in the best interest of what is right for them in their lives. They started proposing and passing laws.
Now, we got to speak truth, and sometimes it’s difficult to hear, but I’m going to — we got to talk truth.
They started proposing and passing laws that would make no exception, even for rape and incest. Now, y’all know I — I used — this was my specialty when I handled these cases as a prosecutor — was to work to protect in particular women and children.
And here’s the thing about it, when we are talking about these so-called leaders passing these kinds of laws: We’re talking about them proposing and passing laws that say, “Well, after you have survived an act of violence and violation to your body, we are then going to say to you that when it comes time for you to make a decision about what happens next to your body, we’re not going to let you make that for yourself.”
Immoral, outrageous that people who dare to walk around expecting you to respect them and elect them would do these kinds of things to other human beings and strip them of their right and entitlement to dignity and autonomy and, something we learn at this school, about self-determination.
This is what’s happening in our country right now. It’s happening before our very eyes. What’s happening in our country right now is that these extremist so-called leaders would dare to tell us what is in our own best interests. Well, I say: I trust the women of America. I trust the people of America to make decisions about their selves. (Applause.) I trust them.
And so, don’t get in our way, because if you do, we’re going to stand up and we’re going to organize and we’re going to speak up and we’re going to say, “We’re not having that. We not playing that!” (Applause.)
And I want to be clear about something: These extremist so-called leaders — check out what they’re doing; they’re also saying they’re going to ban abortion six weeks into a pregnancy. Well, clearly, most of them don’t even know how a woman’s body works because most women don’t even know they’re pregnant at that stage of a pregnancy.
They’re saying that they’re going to make no exceptions, they’re going to criminalize. And you’ve heard the horrendous stories. You know, the details — I ask you to know what’s happening. I’m not going to talk about all the details of what’s been happening to people in America since the Dobbs decision came down, but I’m going to tell you there’s a lot of private suffering. There’s a lot of private suffering that’s been happening.
And we’re not going to hear the stories on the news. We’re not going to see stories and people telling them with the frequency that they’re occurring on TikTok. We’re not. But it’s real.
And one of the things I would say to all the young leaders here in particular that I know about you — one of the things about real leaders is you have empathy. You have empathy. And you understand that the true sign of a leader, the measure of a leader is not based on who you beat down and belittle; it is based and measured on who you lift up. (Applause.)
And that’s what these extremists lack — is the strength to have the courage to understand that real leaders care about the people and their dignity and their autonomy and their right to determine what is in their own best interest.
So this is where we are. This is where we are.
And recently — so, these politicians then started saying, “Well, we’re going to hire some lawyers.” And then these lawyers said, “Well, we’re going to start looking around the country for where there are judges that were appointed by that last guy.” It’s called “forum shopping.”
And so they went down to Texas, and they filed this lawsuit that basically has a bunch of politicians motivating a bunch of lawyers to forum shop and find a judge who will then undo a decision of the FDA.
Now, understand the FDA has been in existence for — and making decisions for over 80 years about what is safe and effective medication, especially when prescribed by a doctor. They go through the process of making that decision after they test it, after they go through peer review and scientific study and medical evaluation. And then they determine, “Okay, this is safe for the American public to use and effective.” That’s how the system works. And that’s the system these people are trying to undo.
They’re trying to say that a lawyer and a politician is in a better position than a doctor to determine what is safe and effective for your use as prescribed by a physician.
And when I’m talking about this around the country and looking at some of these so-called leaders, I’m saying, “Okay, now I want you to understand the implications of what you’re saying. Open your medicine cabinet, in the privacy of your bathroom, in the privacy of your home. I wonder what’s sitting up in there. And whether, if it was up to a political attack, you would be so comfortable with what you’re doing right now.” (Applause.) “You don’t want me getting in your business, do you?”
That’s what’s happening in our country.
And, you know, on this issue, I will say — it’s really important to point out: One does not have to abandon their faith or deeply held beliefs to agree the government should not be making this decision for her. (Applause.)
And I’ll tell you — you know, I do believe that what is happening in the states — I really do believe that what is happening, that we’re seeing around the country, is part of an extremist plan to take this to a national agenda. This is a plan that is an agenda about a national plan.
This is not just about the people of Florida, not just impacting the people of Florida. That’s not the plan. The plan isn’t just about the people of Texas and attacking their rights. What we are witnessing, and be clear about this, is there is a national agenda that’s at play. This is the national agenda.
What they did with mifepristone — by the way, understand, the Supreme Court, they just stayed it. You know what that means? That’s temporary. That’s like, “Give us some time. Maybe I’ll — too hot right now. We’ll come back to that.” That’s a stay; that’s temporary.
If they determine to stand by that Texas decision, it will in effect be a national ban on abortion. Be clear: There is a national agenda at play by these extremist so-called leaders.
And understand, when you look at what they’re up to, their agenda is not only about attacking a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body. This agenda includes attacking your very right and freedom to express your voice through your vote at the ballot box. That’s part of this national agenda.
This national agenda includes these extremist so-called leaders proposing and passing laws that include making it illegal to literally give somebody food and water if they’ve been standing in line for hours just to vote. (Applause.)
What’s at play? Don’t think it’s not a national agenda when they start banning books. Banning books to stand in the way of teaching America’s full history so the truth can be spoken, so we can learn and do better. (Applause.)
Understand what’s at play. We can’t sleep on this.
Standing for ideas that say that people cannot openly love the people they love. You know what’s happening with teachers down in Florida? Teachers down in Florida. You know, now they’re talking about K through 12. “Don’t talk about your spouse if you’re in a same-sex relationship or marriage.” Teachers being afraid to have a photograph of their family for fear they will be punished or could lose their job just because they want to teach. See what’s happening around our country.
When I was sitting in this auditorium as a freshman at Howard University, I was so sure that the strength of our nation would continue to be an expansion of rights.
I am so deeply troubled and sad to stand before Howard students and have the conversation we’re having today — (applause) — where there are so-called leaders who want you to bow down to them, to elect them, to praise them, to say they are strong when they are in the process of tearing down rights and freedoms.
Understand what is happening in our country. This is not a time to sleep on this. We cannot sleep on this.
There is a national agenda at play. There’s an agenda at play that even went so far that they had to turn off the microphones on two young elected leaders in Nashville because they couldn’t even stand it. They couldn’t even handle it. (Applause.) They couldn’t even handle it.
And what were those leaders talking about? “Stand strong and stand up to say we need to deal with gun violence, we need to pass reasonable gun safety laws.” They couldn’t even handle it, these people who want to call themselves leaders.
They were so weak and lacked so much courage that instead of debating on that floor, they turned off the mics.
But, see, we will not be deterred. Anybody got a bullhorn? We will not be deterred.
Understand where we are at this moment. So when we look at this issue, I think we all here know the people will not be deterred. The people will not be silenced. We all understand we must, with a sense of clarity and purpose, understand where we are right now at this moment.
And then we must look at each other and look in the mirror and say, “I’m not having this.” I will stand up for what I believe in. Because I believe very strongly, if you know what you stand for, you know what to fight for. You know what to fight for. (Applause.)
And so I’m looking at this audience, and I’m asking: Who here stands for state legislators and members of Congress to go into those rooms and vote based on courage and what they know is the right thing to do instead of kneeling down to special interest?
Who here stands for the rights of people and folks to love who they love openly? (Applause.)
Who here stands for the rights of people to be free from gun violence and our children to be free to go to school and not have lessons about hiding in a closet? (Applause.)
Who stands for the right of our children to learn the full history of America? (Applause.)
Who stands for the right of a woman and all people to make decisions about their own body? (Applause.)
Who stands for our democracy? Who stands based on love of country and the fact that we know when you love something you fight for it? And we will fight for the ideals of our country, because we know there is too much at stake.
And not on our watch are we going to let this thing keep rolling like it is. (Applause.)
So let us stand and fight, Howard. Let us stand and fight. (Applause.)
END 7:19 P.M. EDT