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Vice President Kamala Harris met with civil rights and reproductive rights leaders Monday to discuss how to protect women’s health care following the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe. V. Wade.
The meeting came after a coalition of civil rights groups sent a letter to President Biden urging him to address the impacts of the high court’s June decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which centered on a Mississippi law that banned abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
“We know 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 crisis in America,” Harris said during a 25-minute media briefing before the start of the closed-door discussion. “It has highlighted the fact that as we all know, we must be vigilant and we must stand should-to-shoulder to ensure that every voice is represented in a way that allows them equal access to all that they need to thrive.”
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Following the high court decision, a number of states have tightly restricted access to abortion, forcing many women, particularly women of color, to travel to out-of-state clinics or forgo much-needed health care altogether, attendees at the meeting said.
Many likened the reproductive access moment to the civil rights movements while pairing the limitations on abortions with the rolling back of voting rights.
In an effort to help allow women access to reproductive care services, Biden has signed executive orders to expand abortion access, even in states where the procedure is illegal. One signed last month directs the Health and Human Services Department to consider using funds, including Medicaid, to support women traveling out-of-state for abortion services.
“The fight for reproductive freedom is a fight for racial justice and it’s really a fight for our very democracy,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
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She said since the Supreme Court ruling, 16 states have already moved to ban abortion, impacting millions of women, many who already face barriers to health care.