Remarks by Vice President Harris in Roundtable Discussion With State Legislators
Orange County Convention Center
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, good afternoon, everyone. I want to thank the Florida State legislators for joining us this afternoon for a discussion about one of the, I think, most pressing issues facing our country today, which revrol- — revolves around the point that every woman in America should be free to make decisions, some of the most intimate decisions a woman can make, about their own bodies and their life.
And we are having this conversation in the context of a Supreme Court that took a constitutional right, that had been recognized, from the women of America.
We’re having this conversation in the context of states and so-called leaders of states, such as some in Florida, who are seeking to restrict a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body at a state level.
And I think that we collectively agree, as do most Americans, that there are certain things the government should just not interfere with. And one of them is what should be the right of every American to make the most intimate decisions about what I like to call “heart and home.”
So that’s the context in which we are having this conversation. I think many of us also agree that this is not an issue that requires any particular person to change their faith or their belief system. It is simply that we should agree that in a democracy, in America, the government should not interfere with certain decisions. Let the woman make that decision with her doctor, her loved ones, her pastor, her priest, her rabbi. But the government should not be doing that. (Applause.)
So that’s the cons- — that’s the issue. That is also a constitutional issue. And — and we know that this fight to stand up for these rights is occurring and will occur on a national level, but certainly is also happening at a state level. And so I applaud the leaders who are here.
When the President and I think about our responsibilities, it is certainly to do the work I’ve done my entire career, which is to fight for the safety, health, and wellbeing of the women of America. And that, of course, includes the women of Florida.
And so we’re here to have that conversation and — and also to recognize that this is not happening in a vacuum. I look at a state like Florida, and it is from the same so-called leaders that these restrictions are being imposed on women that there are also restrictions on voting rights. There are also restrictions on the rights that members of our LGBTQ+ community should have, to live and love freely.
And so this is the environment in which — in which we work. And we will together do what we can to stand together for the people of America and each state, and also to build the coalitions between all of the communities that are directly impacted, with the knowledge that the whole country has something at stake when we are looking at these laws.
So with that, I thank you all. And I want to, in particular, thank Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, for his leadership — longstanding leadership — and also through the agency he runs.
And so I will invite you, Secretary Becerra, if you can begin the discussion, and then we’ll go around the table.
SECRETARY BECERRA: Madam Vice President, I will begin by saying, first, thank you for coming to Florida. Thank you for inviting me to come, because we know that there are champions here for access to healthcare everywhere in America. But certainly here in Florida, we know folks are fighting — the leaders in the medical community, leaders in our legislative community, and we want to say thank you for that.
And we, at HHS, hope to put in action the instructions you and the President have given us to try to make sure we preserve that access to care, that we continue to protect those rights that Americans did know for some 50 years, and that we do it in a way that continues to move our country forward instead of moving backwards.
I think most of us have always known America as a place where the best days are ahead, and that requires us to believe in that. And so I’m thrilled to be able to speak to folks here in Florida about the actions that you and the President have asked HHS to take on.
And so thank you very much for the invitation.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. And with that, we will go around the table. And I’d invite Dr. Schickler to my right to offer a few words about your perspective as the chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of
Southeast [Southwest] and Central Florida.