Photo credit: Eddie Gaspar via The Texas Tribune

By William Melhado and Trent Brown

Originally appeared in the Texas Tribune 

Vice President Kamala Harris on Saturday called Texas’ abortion ban “immoral” and urged Texans to protect reproductive rights when considering their choices in the upcoming November elections.

“A democracy will be as strong as our willingness to fight for it,” she said during a discussion on reproductive rights at the LBJ Presidential Library on the University of Texas at Austin campus, part of a daylong trip that ended with an appearance at a downtown fundraiser for Texas Democrats.

While Harris stressed the importance of voting not only for a governor and attorney general who support reproductive rights, she also noted local elections were also crucial, especially when it comes to choosing a prosecutor. District attorneys will now have to decide whether to prosecute Texas doctors and health care workers if they perform an abortion not meant to save the life of the pregnant patient.

But she also spent a lot of her address discussing the U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer in the Dobbs v. Jackson case, which overturned Roe v. Wade.

“The United States Supreme Court just took a constitutional right that had been recognized from the people of America, from the women of America,” Harris said. “While extremists — so-called leaders — trumpet the rhetoric of freedom, they attack the very foundations of freedom.”

She blamed Texas’ elected GOP leaders for removing women’s freedoms, calling them “the ones passing laws making it difficult for people in the states to vote.”

Harris added: “One of those people is the governor of this very state.” Even before the Dobbs decision, she said, Gov. Greg Abbott and other leaders passed some of the “most radical, most anti-women laws in the country.”

Harris warned that overturning Roe was just a first step for Republicans.

“Where do we think this is heading?” Harris asked the crowd. “Justice Clarence Thomas said the quiet part out loud. Contraception is on the line. Marriage equality is on the line. With Republican party leaders in charge, health care is on the line.”

One topic noticeably absent from her visit was any mention of immigration.

Shortly after Biden took office, he assigned Harris the responsibility of immigration. In June 2021 Harris she traveled to Guatemala and Mexico, a trip she said was an effort to tackle the root causes of illegal immigration. A few weeks after that trip, she visited Border Patrol facilities in El Paso and met with migrant aid groups, but the vice president has not yet visited the Rio Grande Valley, where a large number of border apprehensions are happening.

Predictably, Harris’ visit drew barbs from Texas Republicans, including Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, who have criticized the federal government’s stance regarding the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Texans have been forced to bear the consequences of this Administration’s failure to address the border crisis, including the historic number of illegal crossings as well as the tragic rise in migrant deaths, drug smuggling, fentanyl overdoses, and cartel violence,” Cornyn said in a statement on Friday. “Unfortunately, the Administration’s Border Czar hasn’t seen the epicenter of their self-inflicted crisis firsthand, which has overwhelmed our border communities and law enforcement.”

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