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Kamala Harris brushes off AOC’s idea for abortions on federal land

Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday said that the Biden administration wasn’t looking into allowing abortions to be performed on federal land in states that restrict the procedure following the Supreme Court’s Friday decision reversing Roe v. Wade.

The idea was put forward Friday by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and echoed Sunday by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) after the court rescinded federal abortion rights and allowed states to set their own policies.

Harris is the first woman to hold her post, but she faced criticism from abortion rights advocates who said she seemed aloof by releasing a photo of herself watching cable news coverage of the court ruling from Air Force Two.

CNN reporter Dana Bash asked Harris in an interview Monday, “Can the administration expand abortion access or abortion services on federal land — meaning provide the access on federal land that might be in around states that ban abortion?”

“I think that what is most important right now is that we ensure that the restrictions that the states are trying to put up that would prohibit a woman from exercising what we still maintain is her right, that we do everything we can to empower women to not only seek but to receive the care where it is available,” Harris said.

“Is federal land one of those options?” Bash pressed.

“I mean, it’s not right now what we are discussing,” Harris said, before turning the conversation toward the November midterm elections, which Republicans have been favored to win due to public frustration at high inflation and record gas prices.

“I will say that when I think about what is happening in terms of the states, we have to also recognize, Dana, that we are 130 odd days away from an election, which is going to include Senate races right part of the issue here is that the court has acted and now Congress needs to act,” Harris said.

“But we — if you count the votes — don’t appear to have the votes in the Senate. Well, there’s an election happening.”

Ocasio-Cortez proposed using federal land to create islands of abortion access in restrictive states while speaking to protesters on the night of the ruling in New York City’s Union Square.

“There are also actions at President Biden’s disposal that he can mobilize,” AOC said. “I’ll start with the babiest of the babiest of the baby steps: Open abortion clinics on federal lands in red states right now. Right now.”

Warren echoed the demand Sunday, telling ABC that Biden should “make abortion as available as possible with the tools he has, including medication abortion, including using federal lands as a place where abortions can occur.”

Harris, who downplayed possible 2024 presidential aspirations in the Monday interview, also told Bash she never believed the three Supreme Court justices nominated by President Donald Trump when they told senators that they would respect the court’s precedents.

“I never believed them…. that’s why I voted against them,” Harris said.

Harris went on to brush off the notion of using her “bully pulpit” to sway 50 senators to change Senate rules to allow a federal abortion bill to pass with a bare majority, telling Bash, “we don’t have the numbers in the Senate.”

The Biden administration said after the Friday court ruling that it would fight to ensure that women retain access in all states to FDA-approve medications that can cause an abortion, and to ensure that women can travel from more restrictive to less-restrictive states for the procedure.

Asked about her initial reaction to the court ruling, Harris said, “I was shocked and you know, it’s one thing when you know, something’s gonna happen. It’s another thing when it actually happens.”

“I just actually turned to CNN and I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it. Because they actually did it,” she added.

Harris went on to say how she thought about how the ruling would impact various people in her life.

“Everyone has something at risk on this. First of all, if you are a parent of sons, do think about what this means for the life of your son and what that will mean in terms of the choices he will have,” Harris said.

“Do think about it in the context of the fact that they wrote this decision including concurring opinions that suggest that other rights, such as the freedom to make decisions about when you were going to start a family, the freedom and the right to make decisions about contraception, IUDs —what this is going to mean in terms of in vitro fertilization.”

Harris said that a concurring opinion from Clarence Thomas calling for reconsideration of court rulings of various other rights — including to use contraceptives and to marry someone of the same sex — “said the quiet part out loud.”

Although other conservative justices explicitly ruled out the abortion ruling bearing on other rights, Harris said, “I definitely believe this is not over.”

“We all must really understand the significance of what just happened,” Harris said. “This is profound. And the way that this decision has come down has been so driven, I think, by the politics of the issue versus what should be the values that we place on freedom and liberty in our country.”

In another exchange, Harris told CNN’s Bash that she won’t be running in 2024 to be the first American woman to be president.

“Joe Biden is running for reelection and I will be his ticketmate,” she said.

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