Is Kamala the new abortion czar?

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Kamala Harris has received several big assignments from her boss, Joe Biden. She’s taking on a new one now that the Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health is in. Kamala is stepping forward and setting herself up as the abortion czar. She doesn’t have a good track record on success with her assignments so we can only hope that continues.

To be clear, there is little Kamala or this White House can do. Abortion has been moved back to the states, where it should be and where it was before 1973 when the Supreme Court made up a constitutional right to abortion. There was never any such provision in the Constitution. Reactions from pro-abortion people were as expected, including statements made by Barack and Michelle Obama, Justin Trudeau (!), and Maxine Waters. Joe Biden, however, has a complicated history on the topic of abortion. As a senator, he was a pro-life Democrat. Then he became vice-president and flipped. And, as a presidential candidate, he went further and joined the abortion-up-to-the-time-of-delivery wing of the party in order to pander to Democrat women voters. Democrats are frustrated that since the draft opinion written by Justice Alito was leaked, Biden has been mostly silent. Kamala to the rescue.

Yesterday when the SCOTUS opinion was announced, Kamala was traveling to Illinois to speak about maternal health. She canceled a planned tour and listened to Biden’s remarks. Then she released a reaction of her own.

“Millions of women in America will go to bed tonight without access to the health care and reproductive care they had this morning. Without access to the same reproductive health care that their mothers and grandmothers had for 50 years,” she said, describing the ruling as a “health care crisis.”

That’s a pretty lame reaction. A story in Politico gives some additional details as to what Kamala has been doing since the Alito draft was leaked. She’s been preparing for this moment.

The comments were an early culmination of a moment Harris had been preparing for since POLITICO last month published a draft decision. Since that publication, the VP has held brainstorming meetings nearly every week with health officials, constitutional law scholars, technology experts and faith leaders about how best to protect reproductive rights. She has met with doctors and nurses on the frontlines, and filmed a video her office released earlier this month in which she warned: “The rights of all Americans are at risk. This is the time to fight for women and our country with everything we have.”

On Thursday, Harris met with seven state attorney generals to discuss options to protect the right to an abortion. A Harris aide called the meeting “opportune” and that Harris would use them as a model for other states.

Democrat strategists and Kamala’s staff think this is her moment to shine.

“It would be a huge mistake for the White House to not allow her to really lead on this,” said ALENCIA JOHNSON, a Democratic strategist who has worked for Planned Parenthood and the Biden campaign. “Because at this point, there’s no compromise. We literally have lost everything. There’s nothing else to lose. And so this White House can no longer be timid about this.”

The VP’s team believe she’s well positioned for an elevated role. It’s not just that she’s talked to as many experts and abortion rights advocates as possible since the draft court decision was published but that she has experience on a debate dating back to her days as California’s attorney general.

Her supporters admit that there is no legislative solution short of Congress codifying Roe v Wade. That effort failed on its last attempt. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tried to ram through an extreme abortion bill that would allow anything at any time, including codifying Roe v Wade, and failed to get any Republican support. In this political atmosphere and with midterm elections coming up in November, Democrats know their window is about to slam shut.

Kamala plans to hit the road and work to get out the vote in the midterm elections. She wants to scare Democrat and Independent voters – especially women- into showing up at the polls. Joe Biden said yesterday in his remarks that abortion is on the ballot in November. He wants voters to be angry and show up to vote for Democrats when all indications are that a strong red wave is on the horizon. Kamala even wants to connect abortion to voting rights. Because, of course she does.

In a recent meeting with legal experts, Harris zeroed in on how period tracking apps could make their users “vulnerable to prosecutors in states that have anti-abortion legislation,” one of the attendees said.

“What was really clear is that she really wanted to find a way to convey what these issues mean outside of the confines of kind of lofty towers,” said University of California, Irvine law professor MICHELE GOODWIN, who was in the meeting. “What does this mean for the rule of law? What does this mean for our democracy? How do we connect these issues to voting rights?”

It’s all about Kamala getting out there and making voters feel good about what the administration is doing and how they will handle this SCOTUS decision.

Should she continue taking ownership of the abortion rights portfolio, the hope is that it can be coupled with more aggressive action.

The White House, said Johnson, must “not only let her loose with speeches that will make us feel better, but also push for executive actions and work with the Department of Justice and HHS to figure out how to protect reproductive freedom.”

That’s the problem – the White House and Democrats in Washington, D.C. are still looking for a federal solution to keep abortion legal as it was before yesterday’s decision was announced. The SCOTUS decision brings the issue back to a state issue, not a federal one.

Kamala won’t be any more successful in this new role than she has been in her other assignments. Every time she delivers a speech, it becomes a cringeworthy event. I see some awkward cackles in her future as she tries to reassure Democrat voters that Joe will be saving Roe v Wade for them. He can’t and he won’t but that’s beside the point. Kamala needs some positive exposure among the base of the party because she thinks she’s going to be the nominee in 2024.

The co-president, Jill Biden, issued her own statement yesterday. The right to abortions was “stolen” from women.

“For nearly 50 years, women have had the right to make our own decisions about our bodies. Today, that right was stolen from us. And while we may be devastated by this injustice, we will not be silent.”

Politico described that as a “rare tough statement” from Jill Biden. Other than conflating theft with following the words in the Constitution, it’s hardly a tough statement. Oh well. We’ll keep an eye on Kamala and see how all this works out for her.