President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris hosted a “Restore Roe” rally in Manassas, Virginia on Tuesday, signifying the importance of abortion rights in the 2024 election cycle. They were joined by their spouses, First Lady Jill Biden and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, who spoke first as they rallied for the restoration and protection of reproductive rights. In Biden-Harris’s first appearance together since starting their campaign for the 2024 presidential election, they sent a vital message about how the nation’s overwhelming support for abortion rights will determine the outcome of the election.
Boisterous chants of “Four More Years” and “Let’s Go Joe” echoed throughout the Hylton Performing Arts Center as President Biden took the stage to advocate for the reversal of destructive anti-abortion policies created when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade through their Dobbs v. Jackson decision: “The extreme laws passed by Dobbs have no place in the United States of America. But what does have a place is your voice! The Dobbs decision practically dares the women of America to be heard.”
Biden then called on the audience to vote for the restoration of the protections that were once recognized by the Supreme Court. “Today isn’t just a day to remember the anniversary of Roe v. Wade,” said President Biden. “Today is a day to call to action. With your voice, with your power, with your vote, we can restore the protections that have been around for over 50 years under Roe v. Wade.”
The Biden-Harris administration was joined by reproductive rights advocate Amanda Zurawski, who made a moving speech about her traumatic experience of being denied access to abortion care in post-Roe Texas. “The near-total abortion ban had gone into effect just after my water broke. Ending the pregnancy would have been considered an illegal abortion and my doctor would be at risk of loss of her license or even jail time. I was told to wait. I had to wait until I got so sick that my life was considered in danger.” The Texas law punishes abortion providers with fines of at least $100,000, bans them from practicing medicine, and sentences healthcare providers with up to 99 years in jail.
Zurawski’s speech was a sobering, emotional case for abortion access; a case that has played out time and again in 21 states where extreme Republican legislatures have moved to dismantle women’s health care after the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson. Audience members wiped tears from their eyes as Zurawski recounted how she was denied abortion care even as she faced death from sepsis. After her doctor finally provided her with the health care she needed, she spent three days in the intensive care unit fighting for her life. Zurawski’s speech reminded those in attendance at the rally of the real-life consequences that come from restricting abortion access: “It was in that dark and lonely hospital room that I realized I was actually lucky. I lived. Others would not be so lucky.”
The Future of America’s Abortion Laws
The rally captured the growing momentum of the national movement to restore the protections afforded by Roe v. Wade. Access to healthcare and abortion rights are driving election results. Many politicians were held accountable for their anti-abortion campaigning during the midterm elections of 2022. When women’s health care is on the ballot, such as constitutional amendments in Michigan, Ohio, Kansas, and Wisconsin, the vast majority of Americans showed they were willing to turn out to vote in support of abortion rights for all. But restoring abortion rights on the basis of Roe v. Wade is not enough.
By enshrining the Equal Rights Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, a strong legal foundation of sex equality would be established to protect the right to abortion and the full range of reproductive healthcare. Many feminist activists and legal scholars point out that abortion rights established by Roe were based on a right to privacy, which is a weaker argument than a decision based on equality.
The future of abortion access depends on the ERA explicitly guaranteeing equality in the Constitution – definitively protecting abortion access and giving women autonomy over their bodies.