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Vice President Harris praises Massachusetts as a 'model' for other states on reproductive rights

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC (Susan Walsh/AP)
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC (Susan Walsh/AP)

Massachusetts stands as a "model" that other states should follow to protect access to abortions and other reproductive health care, Vice President Kamala Harris said during a visit to the Bay State on Thursday.

Offering praise both for the Democrats who crafted a substantial reproductive care bill and for Republican Gov. Charlie Baker after he signed it into law, Harris said the country faces a "health care crisis" in the wake of the fall of Roe v. Wade.

"To all the leaders who are here, as I said before the press came in, you all are certainly local leaders, statewide leaders, leaders in Massachusetts, but you're also national leaders," Harris said at a roundtable event in Dorchester alongside Baker, state lawmakers, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and other officials. "You are leading by example. The work that is happening here in Massachusetts is a model of work that can and, we believe, should happen around the country."

Harris met with Massachusetts lawmakers to express the Biden administration's commitment to abortion access.

Harris on multiple occasions criticized "extremist so-called leaders" in states that have moved to restrict or entirely ban abortions, including in cases involving rape or incest.

"I am a former prosecutor who specialized in child sexual assault cases and violence against women," she said. "The idea that we would require someone who has endured an extreme act of violence and then subject her to the government's will without investing in her the self-determination to which she is entitled to make decisions based on what she believes is her best interest is outrageous."

In the wake of the Supreme Court's June 24 Dobbs v. Jackson ruling, Massachusetts lawmakers rolled out and approved legislation designed to lessen barriers to abortion and protect providers and patients here while other states moved to crack down on the practice.

Baker — who in 2020 vetoed an abortion access bill after lawmakers rejected his amendments — last week signed the latest proposal into law, putting on the books new protections for providers who could face out-of-state legal action.

During the event, both Harris and Baker also pointed to Tuesday's election in Kansas, where voters rejected by a 59-41 margin a ballot measure that would have allowed state lawmakers to limit or ban abortions.

"If you take a look at the electoral turnout in that race, there were a heck of a lot of Republicans and independents who voted for choice in that election," Baker said. "I think it's critically important for all of us to recognize and to understand that some issues cross party lines."

Harris applauded "down-home leaders in Kansas" for their work to organize in opposition to the ballot measure, with emphasis on appealing to voters of all stripes.

"They spoke loudly and said it doesn't matter who she voted for in the last election or who she plans on voting for in the next election. Don't take her rights from her and allow the government to replace its priorities for her priorities," Harris said. "The vote that occurred in Kansas also made clear what we all know: The majority of Americans agree with this principle."

A day before Harris's visit to Boston, President Joe Biden issued an executive order the White House said would support patients traveling to other states for reproductive health care, press providers to comply with federal non-discrimination law, and promote additional research about maternal health outcomes.

Harris will continue her trip to Massachusetts in Martha's Vineyard for Democratic fundraisers.

With additional reporting by WBUR's Anthony Brooks

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