In Florida, Harris Looks to Make Trump the Face of the State’s Abortion Ban

In Florida, Harris Looks to Make Trump the Face of the State’s Abortion Ban

On the day that Florida began to enforce its six-week abortion ban, Vice President Kamala Harris delivered a searing attack on former President Donald J. Trump in Jacksonville, calling the measure “another Trump abortion ban” and saying he was forcing women to live a “horrific reality” without access to essential medical care.

“As much harm as he has already caused, a second Trump term would be even worse,” Ms. Harris said to about 200 supporters at a convention center in a historically African American neighborhood.

If Mr. Trump were to win in November, she argued, Americans would be compelled to endure “more bans, more suffering, less freedom.”

President Biden has made abortion — a rare issue on which he polls strongly against Mr. Trump — a pillar of his re-election campaign. He and Ms. Harris have campaigned aggressively in states that have imposed abortion restrictions, including Florida, where the president spoke last week, and Arizona, where legislators voted on Wednesday to overturn a near-total ban dating to 1864.

The president and vice president have used their appearances to illustrate the consequences of electing Republicans, and have placed the blame for the bans squarely on Mr. Trump, whose appointments to the Supreme Court helped overturn Roe v. Wade. “Donald Trump did this” has become a frequent refrain in Mr. Biden’s ads and speeches — a pointed and direct attack from a campaign that has struggled to sell its message to voters.

Ms. Harris’s appearance in Jacksonville also allowed her to capitalize on an interview Mr. Trump gave to Time magazine that was published on Tuesday. In the interview, Mr. Trump refused to commit to vetoing a federal abortion ban — which seemed to contradict recent statements from him — and said he would permit states to punish women who violated abortion bans.

“Just this week, in an interview, Trump said that states have the right to monitor pregnant women to enforce these bans, and to punish pregnant women for seeking out abortion care,” Ms. Harris warned.

In talking points distributed to surrogates on Tuesday, the Biden campaign urged them to focus attention on Mr. Trump’s abortion comments.

On Wednesday, the six-week ban had already started to change lives. About 15 minutes away from Ms. Harris’s campaign event in Jacksonville, a reproductive health clinic called A Woman’s Choice received calls from women seeking abortions.

One woman said she was calling from Georgia, which also has a six-week ban. An official at the clinic informed her that a six-week ban was now in effect in Florida, too.

“Oh, Lord Jesus,” the woman responded, before opting to make an appointment in North Carolina, the nearest state where an abortion for someone at her stage of pregnancy would be available.

Many women do not know that they are pregnant at six weeks. And Florida’s ban means patients in the Southeast will have to travel as far away as North Carolina and Virginia to seek abortions, an unaffordable expense for many.

“The extremists who wrote this ban either don’t know how a woman’s body works, or they simply don’t care,” Ms. Harris said.

Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, signed the six-week ban last year ahead of a failed bid for the Republican presidential nomination in which he tried to court social conservatives. Floridians will have the chance to overturn the law with a ballot referendum in November. That has revived faint hopes among Democrats that Florida could be in play in the presidential election, although the Biden campaign has yet to invest significant resources in the state and Republicans hold a major advantage in voter registration.

“This is going to be a game changer here in Florida. It’s going to be a motivator,” said Christina Diamond, the chief executive of Ruth’s List Florida, a group that works to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights.

“The reason we have a six-week ban,” Ms. Diamond added, “is because the State Legislature and our statewide offices are held by Republicans.”

To emphasize that point, the Democratic National Committee put up billboards around Florida with Mr. Trump’s face that told women how far they would have to drive to reach a state where they could receive an abortion. And it also hired a plane to fly over Mar-a-Lago, the former president’s home in Palm Beach, Fla., trailing a banner that read: “Trump’s Plan: Ban Abortion, Punish Women.”

(Mr. Trump is campaigning in Wisconsin and Michigan on Wednesday as the criminal trial against him in Manhattan is on break for the day.)

Republicans in Florida responded to Ms. Harris’s visit by talking about everything except abortion.

“In Florida, especially in Jacksonville, families are suffering under the train-wreck Biden-Harris Bidenomics,” Evan Power, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, said in a statement. “Groceries cost more. Gas prices are surging. And the cost of housing continues to push Americans’ wallets to the breaking point. Meanwhile, the open border lawlessness of the Biden Bloodbath has made all states — including Florida — a border state.”

Jacksonville has one of the largest Black populations in the United States, and the six-week ban will most likely have a disproportionate impact on African American women, who receive the procedure at higher rates than other groups.

The Biden campaign has been working to shore up its support among African Americans. Polling shows that Black voters are more likely to say abortion is their top issue. At the Jacksonville event, a marching band from Edward Waters University, a historically Black university, warmed up the crowd. Ms. Harris’s introductory speakers included Fentrice Driskell and Tracie Davis, two of the state’s most prominent Black politicians.

“We want the little girls of Florida to have the same freedom that their mothers and their grandmothers did,” said Ms. Driskell, a Tampa Democrat and the state House minority leader. “So let’s say it loud enough that they hear it from Jacksonville all the way to shake the walls of Mar-a-Lago: Get out of our health care. Get out of our exam rooms. We are taking our rights back.”

Abigail Geiger contributed from Jacksonville, Fla., Reid J. Epstein from Washington and Patricia Mazzei from Miami.

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