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Kamala Harris arrives in Jacksonville to speak about Florida's abortion ban

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Hours after Florida passed a strict six-week abortion ban, Vice President Kamala Harris will speak out in Jacksonville against it — and against similar efforts across the country to restrict the procedure.

Harris announced the visit last week as a campaign stop on her Fight for Reproductive Freedoms tour, just a week after President Joe Biden campaigned in Tampa.

Her speech against abortion bans comes at a time when the Southeast is grappling with the question of how to provide abortion care not only to Floridians but also to the surrounding region, which has come to rely on the state for access.

Democrats at the national and state levels have highlighted the issue as a key difference between Biden and former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, and have repeatedly blamed Trump for overturning Roe v. Wade.

Trump has changed his public opinion on abortion over the years, recently declaring he is the “person proudly responsible” for eliminating the constitutional right to abortion. He has not advocated a national ban, instead saying he prefers to leave the decision up to each individual state.

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Harris is expected to respond to the former president's recent interview with Time magazine, in which Trump said he would leave abortion policy to the states, including whether they monitor pregnancies or prosecute those who performed procedures would prosecute if the law allows it.

“It’s irrelevant whether I feel comfortable or not,” Trump said in the Time article. “It’s completely irrelevant because states will make these decisions.”

President Joe Biden referenced the article in a statement before Harris' event, saying Trump “supports punishing women for getting the care they need.”

“Today, an extreme abortion ban goes into effect in Florida, banning reproductive health care before many women even know they are pregnant,” Biden said. “One person is responsible for this nightmare: Donald Trump.” Trump boasts about Roe v. Wade overturned and made extreme bans like the one in Florida possible and says his plan is working 'brilliantly.'

Abortion Status in Florida, Greater Southeast Region

Florida has acted since Roe v. Wade in 2022 as an abortion access point in the Southeast as surrounding states quickly restricted or banned the procedure.

According to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, more than 7,000 people traveled to Florida from out of state to get an abortion last year.

Maintaining that access became uncertain when the Florida Legislature passed a 15-week ban in 2022. A lawsuit by Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics across the state halted the measure until the Florida Supreme Court declared it legal on April 1 of this year.

The ruling signaled the starting signal for an even more restrictive six-week ban, which lawmakers passed in 2023. But the court also approved a ballot amendment put before voters in November that could protect abortion access in the state.

If passed, the amendment would allow abortions until fetal viability, which typically takes about 24 weeks. The amendment reads:

“No law shall prohibit, penalize, delay or restrict abortion before it is viable or when necessary to protect the health of the patient as determined by the patient's health care provider. This change does not change the Legislature’s constitutional authority to require notification to a parent or guardian before a minor obtains an abortion.”

Seven other states — California, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Ohio and Vermont — have approved voting changes supporting abortion, but Florida has a higher hurdle for approval, requiring 60% of the vote to pass.

Abortion has become a key campaign issue this cycle, and Democrats have emphasized efforts to repeal strict bans and enshrine rights to the procedure in red states.

Democratic Party leaders from Florida, Georgia and North Carolina rallied against the bans in Tallahassee on Tuesday ahead of Harris' trip. Florida Gov. Nikki Fried blamed Trump for the state of abortion care in the country and urged voters to go to the polls.

“Florida voters are our last line of defense for millions of women in the South,” said Nikki Fried. “Voters can reverse the extreme ban and restore reproductive freedom in November.”

Group protests Harris' visit

Conservatives and abortion opponents have applauded Florida's efforts to restrict abortion, with some even calling for an outright ban. At least one anti-abortion group will protest Harris' visit.

Students for Life of America plan to gather outside a Jacksonville Planned Parenthood Wednesday morning before the speech.

“As young people gather to celebrate this great victory for babies in Florida, once the fifth-highest abortion state in America, Harris will speak out for child abortion with beating hearts because she knows the truth – Florida and the pro-life movement is not on their side,” Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, said in a news release.

Anna Harden

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