Just a day after President Joe Biden announced their bid for reelection, Vice President Kamala Harris, a 1986 graduate of Howard University, returned to her alma mater to discuss the implications of revoking reproductive rights with current students.
Last Tuesday, Harris participated in the Fighting for Reproductive Freedom event in partnership with reproductive health advocacy organizations, including NARAL Pro-Choice America, Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Held in Cramton Auditorium and opened by a performance from the Quad Step Team, this year’s ResFest step team winners, the event engaged students on current reproductive rights battles and showcased Howard’s culture. Harris discussed what she believes is the problem with many conservative political leaders making discussions regarding the health of American women.
“To my fellow Bison, when we think about the role of the United States Supreme Court and all that it’s supposed to be, and yet in our recent memory, the highest court in our land, Thurgood’s court, took a constitutional right that had been recognized from the people of America, from the women of America,” Harris said.
Harris’ speech comes 10 months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which made having an abortion a federal right for nearly 50 years. Currently, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 11 states—Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas— have made getting an abortion illegal.
West Virginia has a near-total ban on abortions, while North Dakota and Wisconsin have unavailable abortion clinics, four more states have banned abortions based on how far along women are in their pregnancy, three more states have blocked abortions in court and three more states are predicted to begin banning abortions.
Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade the Biden-Harris Administration has been actively searching for ways to protect a woman’s right to an abortion as well as speaking up publicly about conservative lawmakers.
“I am so deeply troubled and sad to stand in front of Howard students and have this conversation we’re having today, where there are so-called leaders who want you to bow down to them, to elect them, to praise them, to say they are strong when they are in the process of tearing down our freedoms,” Harris said.
Harris’ speech heavily resonated with Danae Sims, a junior political science major at Howard.
“I love how her speech addressed how the same people who run for us to vote for them are alienating us in what they stand for… I believe a woman’s decision about her reproductive health belongs to her and her alone,” Sims said.
Angel Sobtejou, a junior organizational communications major from Long Island, New York, currently serves as the Generation Howard University Planned Parenthood Chapter President. Sobtejou offered opening remarks following the Quad Step Team performance.
“There is a history of communities fighting to be seen as human and deserving of human rights,” Sobtejou said. “We need to be conscious of what and who we are here for. We are all here for different reasons, but what matters is that we are here.”
Throughout the night, members of the audience engaged with speakers chanting, “When I say ‘we are’ you say ‘the majority,’” or “Tell me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like!”
Many remarks were made surrounding the fight for reproductive freedom, including from Brittany House, a Howard University alumna and a patient advocate with the Planned Parenthood Action Form. House shared her story about having an abortion and the importance of having the right to an abortion.
“All patients should have access to the most secure options for their medical needs,” House said. “Banning abortions affects everyone, and the sooner people realize that the better.”
Copy edited by Alana Matthew