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Harris goes on the offensive over abortion rights in Arizona: ‘Trump did this’

By Priscilla Alvarez and Michael Williams, CNN

Tucson, Arizona (CNN) — Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday placed the blame squarely on Donald Trump as she went on the offensive over abortion rights in Arizona and across the country.

In the wake of an Arizona Supreme Court ruling this week banning abortions in almost all cases, Harris headed to Arizona to mobilize voters who see November’s election as a referendum on women’s rights, one of the Biden campaign’s key issues in the upcoming election. The vice president has become a go-to voice for the campaign on abortion rights and quickly announced a trip to Tucson after Tuesday’s ruling.

The decision, which revived a 160-year-old law barring all abortions except in cases when “it is necessary to save” a pregnant woman’s life, “demonstrated once and for all that overturning Roe was just the opening act of a larger strategy” to restrict abortion access in the United States, Harris said. The ruling, she said, marked an “inflection point” in the fight over abortion rights.

“And we all must understand who all is to blame,” she said. “Former President Donald Trump did this.”

The vice president’s remarks came moments after Trump held a news conference at his Mar-a-Lago resort with House Speaker Mike Johnson, during which the former president touted having “broke Roe v. Wade” and said that state control of abortion bans is “working the way it’s supposed to.”

In Tucson, Harris laid out the stakes of the upcoming election in blunt terms: “This fight is about freedom.”

Harris has been crisscrossing the country as part of her reproductive rights tour since January, arguing that abortion rights hang in the balance with the results of the election. Last month, Harris visited a Planned Parenthood clinic in Minnesota becoming the first sitting vice president or president to visit an abortion provider.

Calling Roe’s overturning in 2022 a “seismic event,” Harris described the Arizona ban as “one of the biggest aftershocks.”

Democrats have seized on abortion ahead of November, seeing it as a salient political issue that could spur moderate voters — particularly women — to turn out in droves against Trump by tying the abortion bans directly to him.

Both Biden and Harris have repeatedly campaigned on Trump’s bragging that he crafted the conservative supermajority on the US Supreme Court that overturned Roe v. Wade — which had federally protected the right to an abortion for almost half a century — in the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision.

A second Trump term, Harris said, would entail “more bans, more suffering and less freedom.”

“Just like he did in Arizona, he basically wants to take America back to the 1800s,” Harris said. “But,” she added, “we are not going to let that happen.”

“We are not going back,” she said.

The Biden campaign is seeking to galvanize momentum in battleground Arizona following a Tuesday’s ruling, launching a seven-figure ad buy on the issue as it argues Republicans are “out of step.”

In a new 30-second ad, “Power Back,” President Joe Biden blames his predecessor. The campaign will spend seven figures on that ad and another ad introduced earlier this week with the story of a woman affected by Texas’ abortion ban.

The Harris team has focused on reproductive rights as an issue that it believes the vice president is uniquely positioned to lead on. The issue has been top-of-mind for the vice president, dating back to 2021, when she held a reproductive rights roundtable.

About half of registered voters in the United States say this year’s elections will have a “major impact” on access to abortion, and about 1 in 8 voters says that abortion is the most important issue driving their vote, according to a KFF survey.

The issue mobilized moderate and liberal voters in the midterm elections — drawing Democratic victories up and down ballots across the country.

“It’s going to be a driving issue,” one Democratic strategist told CNN, arguing that the Arizona court ruling served as another data point to bolster the party’s argument. “It offers a salient data point to counter Republican talking points that we’re the extreme ones.”

The Biden campaign is repeatedly working to drive the message that Trump “is responsible for the state of reproductive freedom in Arizona today.” As Trump works to thread a political needle on the issue, the campaign will continue to tie him directly to the policies.

Both Trump and GOP Arizona Senate candidate Kari Lake released statements opposing the Arizona Supreme Court ruling. And Trump said on Wednesday he would not sign a national abortion ban into law if he were to become president — though his stance on abortion has been wishy-washy for decades.

Harris said Friday that she doubted Trump’s sincerity after he claimed at Mar-a-Lago that he wouldn’t sign a national abortion ban into law if reelected in November.

“Enough with the gaslighting,” she said.

This headline and story have been updated with additional developments on Friday.

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