Aug 4, 2022 - Politics & Policy

VP Harris, Mass. Gov. Baker make bipartisan pitch for abortion rights

A close shot of Vice President Kamala Harris resting her head on her hands, which are interwoven.

Vice President Kamala Harris visited Boston to talk reproductive health with Massachusetts political leaders. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris joined forces with Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and the state's top Democrats to pitch abortion protections as a bipartisan issue.

Driving the news: Harris met with Baker, Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley and other political leaders at the IBEW Local 103 headquarters in Boston on Thursday, ahead of a pair of Democratic National Committee events on Martha's Vineyard.

  • This is the seventh state Harris has visited in recent weeks to discuss reproductive health care.

Why it matters: Massachusetts has one of the strongest reproductive health laws in the country, and Harris' visit shows the White House's commitment to states reinforcing abortion protections.

  • "Our administration stands with the leaders who are here and with the women of America," Harris said Thursday.
  • She also praised voters in Kansas, who rejected an amendment this week that would have ended abortion protections in the state's constitution.

Zoom in: Harris discussed the possibility of building coalitions between legislators in blue states and those in red states that have implemented abortion bans, said Rebecca Hart Holder, who leads the Massachusetts Beyond Roe Coalition, in an interview with Axios.

  • "We can all serve as learning laboratories for each other," said Hart Holder, who attended the meeting. She regularly communicates with advocates in Missouri, which currently bans most abortions.

Context: A day before Harris' visit, President Biden signed an executive order directing the U.S. Health and Human Services Department to "consider action to advance access" to abortions, including offering Medicaid for patients traveling out of state for the procedure.

Meanwhile, Baker signed a bill last week that protects abortion providers delivering care to out-of-state patients from lawsuits in other states — a far different approach from Republican governors in Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri, who have passed laws tightening abortion restrictions.

  • The law also updates the statute so doctors can perform abortions past 24 weeks in the case of a "grave" but not 100% fatal fetal defect without fear of legal retribution.
  • Baker vetoed a similar measure in 2020, which Democrats overrode. But the governor, who isn't seeking reelection, signed the latest bill with no major changes.

The other side: "We regret that Governor Baker wasted no time in signing the expanded abortion bill, H.5090, into law last Friday," MA Citizens for Life tweeted. "Although this is disappointing news, we are resolved to keep fighting to pass pro-life measures in Massachusetts."

What's next: Some $17 million in funding for reproductive health care is in question since lawmakers' negotiations over a massive economic development bill fell apart at the end of the formal legislative session.

  • Lawmakers have until January to finalize the spending package before their terms end, but doing so in informal sessions after July 31 will likely prove difficult.
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