Kamala Harris photo

Remarks by the Vice President and Doctor Sarah Traxler During the Nationwide "Fight for Reproductive Freedoms" Tour at Planned Parenthood in St. Paul, Minnesota

March 14, 2024

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everyone. I first want to thank the governor, Tim Walz, for your leadership both for this beautiful state, but nationally you've been a great friend and advisor to the President and me. And thank you for all of that.


THE VICE PRESIDENT: Congresswoman -- I mean, just an extraordinary leader. She is strong, she is powerful, she is committed, and always working on behalf of the people of the state. And I thank you, and thank you for traveling with me to be here today.


THE VICE PRESIDENT: And, Mayor, thank you, as well. We shared a lot of stories about your leadership. And I know that you have a lot of support here in the city for the work that you have done. Thank you for that.

So, many of you have asked why am I here at this at -- this facility, in particular. And I will tell you, it is because, right now in our country, we are facing a very serious health crisis. And the crisis is affecting many, many people in our country, most of whom are, frankly, silently suffering after the United States Supreme Court took a constitutional right that had been recognized from the people of America, from the women of America.

In states around our country, extremists have proposed and passed laws that have denied women access to reproductive healthcare. And the stories abound.

I have heard stories of -- and have met with women who had miscarriages in -- in toilets. Women who were being denied emergency care because the healthcare providers there, at an emergency room, were afraid that because of the laws in their state, that they could be criminalized, sent to prison for providing healthcare.

So, I'm here at this healthcare clinic to uplift the work that is happening in Minnesota as an example of what true leadership looks like, which is to understand it is only right and fair that people have access to the healthcare they need and that they have access to healthcare in an environment where they are treated with dignity and respect.

And please do understand that when we talk about a clinic such as this, it is absolutely about healthcare and reproductive healthcare. So, everyone get ready for the language: uterus. (Laughter.) That part of the body needs a lot of medical care from time to time. (Laughter.)

Issues like fibroids -- we can handle this -- breast cancer screenings, contraceptive care -- that is the kind of work that happens here, in addition, of course, to abortion care.

So, to have laws in states that have caused clinics like this to shut down so that women have no access within any reasonable distance of where they live to get this vital care that is necessary to address their health needs and concerns.

So, again, I say thank you to the governor, the congresswoman, the mayor, and the doctor and all those who work here, and the staff.

This work includes having people here who go out and talk to young people -- our young people in high schools. And sadly, in so many places around our country, Sex Ed is a thing of the past, which leaves our young people to learn about their bodies and reproductive systems on social media -- often with a profound amount of misinformation, which leaves them confused about what is happening to their own bodies.

The work that happens here is about providing assistance to women who do not live in the state of Minnesota, because, sadly, this state exists in a neighborhood where laws have been passed to deny people reproductive healthcare. And so, women have to travel here.

You know, the majority of women who receive an abortion are mothers. God help her that she's got affordable childcare. If she is working, God help her she's got paid family leave so she can figure out how is she going to get to the place that will provide her the care she needs.

Well, the work that happens in a clinic like this includes answering those questions for someone who might be in great distress, letting her know what is available to her in terms of transportation, in terms of housing or a hotel, what is available to her in terms of assistance for her childcare needs.

So, I'll close with this. In this environment, these attacks against an individual's right to make decisions about their own body are outrageous and, in many instances, just plain old immoral.

How dare these elected leaders believe they are in a better position to tell women what they need, to tell women what is in their best interest. We have to be a nation that trusts women. (Applause.)

And with that, I will introduce this extraordinary healthcare provider. And, Doctor, please.

DR. TRAXLER: Thank you. Thank you so much.

I have to use my notes, folks. (Laughter.) I'm not used to doing this.

So, good afternoon, everyone.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon.

DR. TRAXLER: I'm Sarah Traxler. I'm the Chief Medical Officer here at Planned Parenthood North Central States. I'm a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist with a subspecialty in complex family planning, and I also have my masters of science in health policy.

I am a proud abortion provider. And I'm honored that Vice President Kamala Harris has visited our clinic today. It's a historic moment and one that demonstrates how critically important access to reproductive healthcare is to people and their families across the country.

So, thank you so much --


DR. TRAXLER: -- for being here today.


DR. TRAXLER: Thank you.

After the Dobbs decision a year and a half ago, Minnesota has become a bastion of access for abortion care. But abortion rights are not only a Minnesota issue; it is a national issue.

Our Planned Parenthood has seen a 25 percent increase in abortions here in Minnesota since Roe was overturned. We've seen nearly 100 percent increase in patients coming here from outside of our state.

This is not by accident. Surrounding states have been limiting and banning abortion, while Minnesota, with the help of our governor, has been increasing access.

Since Roe was overturned, I've cared for patients from everywhere, from nearby states like South Dakota and North Dakota and Wisconsin, but from far-away states like Texas, Alabama, Wyoming, Florida, Oklahoma, Missouri, and the list goes on.

I've seen patients who've flown from places like Louisiana only to have me tell her that her complex pregnancy condition would keep her from having her abortion here with me, forcing her to continue a dangerous pregnancy because hospital-based care was not available to her in her home state.

Traveling to access essential healthcare can be intimidating and overwhelming. It is not an easy thing to do, as we have all pretended that it is.

Like the experience of our patient who traveled from a small rural town and became lost in downtown Minneapolis with a dead cell phone after her flight landed. We were able to get her a Lyft driver, our patient navigators, and she described that Lyft driver as a savior for her. And like our patient who drove hundreds and hundreds of miles through blizzard conditions just to get her abortion.

Our new abortion landscape is difficult, it is dangerous, and it is putting my patients and healthcare providers at severe risk. I've talked to my colleagues practicing in states where abortion is now illegal, and they are unnecessarily struggling with decisions around providing ethical, proper medical care and conflicting with the law. This should never happen.

Thankfully, providing abortion care has gotten less complicated in Minnesota. Here, I'm trusted as a provider and an expert to work with my patients to provide the best care possible.

To know that I'm trusted to do my job is a comfort to me, but it should be the standard everywhere. Private medical decisions should be made between patients and their doctors without interference from politicians or the protesters standing outside on the street in front of our clinic today.

You know, I didn't always feel this way. I came to understand bodily autonomy after a long history of being anti-abortion and having a very distorted point of view about abortion care. It wasn't until a friend told me her abortion story that I came to see the light.

After hearing her, knowing her history, I knew that an abortion was the right choice for her, for her life, for her future and nobody else's. And it dawned on me. If she is making the right decision for her life, then there are countless other people who are making the right decision for their lives. And no one should be interfering in that.

From my -- from that point on, my awakening into understanding bodily autonomy and freedom grew to the point that I am today.

Everyone should have the right to access healthcare. Your ZIP Code shouldn't dictate the care that you can access. Your race, your socioeconomic status -- none of that should determine it.

So, in 2024 and beyond, we will keep fighting, we will keep working until we live in a world where everyone can access the care they decide is best for their futures and their bodies and in their own community.

Thank you. (Applause.)

AIDE: We're going to take a couple of questions, and we're -- we're going to start with Rochelle from the Star Tribune.

Q: Hi, Madam Vice President. Why do you think it took so long for a sitting president or vice president to visit an abortion provider? And, also, how concerned are you about the 20 percent who voted uncommitted in the Minnesota presidential primary?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I'll tell you, the reason I'm here is because this is a healthcare crisis. And I think that of the many stories that we can tell -- excuse me. (Coughs.)

Of the many stories that we need to tell about what has happened after the Dobbs decision, one of them is that part of this healthcare crisis is the clinics like this that have had to shut down and what that has meant to leave no options with any reasonable geographic area for so many women who need this essential care.

And, again, it runs the gamut of reproductive healthcare. So, yes, it is abortion care. It is also, as I mentioned earlier, essential and critical reproductive healthcare like paps, like breast cancer screenings, things of that nature.

So, I'm here to highlight that of the many, I believe, potentially intended consequences of the Dobbs decision, one of them has been for healthcare providers such as this in the states that have banned or outlawed access to reproductive care -- clinics like this to shut down. And it's a travesty. It's a travesty.

Q: Madam Vice President, can I --

AIDE: We're going to go to our next question, Madam Vice President. Darlene, right to your left, with the AP.

Q: Hi. Thank you. We were not able to go with you on the tour, obviously. Can you give us a sense of what you saw back there --


Q: -- and also what you learned by coming here today?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, what I saw were, I don't know, maybe two dozen healthcare workers who really care --

really care about their patients and who understand that in the healthcare delivery system, regardless of your gender or your healthcare need, I think we should all expect and certainly we all desire that you will be treated with dignity and you'll be treated in an environment where you feel safe. And by that, I mean safe to be free from judgment, to be in an environment where you are actually and really listened to, where your needs and your expression of your needs are taken seriously.

And walking through this clinic, that's what I saw are people who have dedicated their lives to the profession of providing healthcare in a safe place that gives people dignity.

And I think we should all want that for each other.

AIDE: Thank you, Vice President. We'll going to Nick at the New York Times.

Q: Madam Vice President, what do you see as your role on this issue, given that the administration has run up to the limit of what it can do to protect abortion rights and Congress is unlikely to pass a bill codifying them?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, Congress will pass that bill when we win back the House. (Applause.) And so, I am sure of that.

And I think that the -- the point -- one of the points that must be made on this issue, as we attempt to uplift the real stories and the real consequences of the Dobbs decision is to remind people elections matter. Elections matter.

What happened here in Minnesota, with the reelection of the governor and the turning of the state legislature is what has led to ensuring that these fundamental rights are intact and are protected. Elections matter.

And let me be very clear about this. When it comes to national elections and who sits in the United States Congress on this, there's a fundamental point on this issue that I think most people agree with, which is that one does not have to abandon their faith or deeply held beliefs to agree the government should not be telling women what to do with their body. If she chooses, she will consult with -- with her priest, her pastor, her rabbi, her imam. But it's not for the government to tell her what she can and cannot do with her own body.

Q: And so, what do you see as your role on this issue?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: My role is to do what I just did, which is to articulate exactly these points and to continue to articulate them and to organize folks around what I know is an issue that is impacting more people than you'll ever really know, who, as I said earlier, are silently suffering.

And so, we who have the ability to have a bouquet of microphones in front of us, as I do, I take on then the responsibility of uplifting these stories and reminding people -- with some belief, by the way, when I do it, that the vast majority of Americans do have empathy and that, even if they don't agree that this would be the best decision for them,

would agree that other people should not be suffering the way they are.

AIDE: Thank you, Vice President. We have one more question right here from Patricia --


AIDE: -- at Bloomberg.


Q: Madam Vice President, Roe was always an imperfect vessel. What exactly would you like to see replace it? What form should it take? What should the scope of it be?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: What we want is to put back in place the protections that the Supreme Court took away, which is to codify, put into law the protections of Roe v. Wade. That's what we want.

AIDE: Madam Vice President, thank you so much.

Kamala Harris, Remarks by the Vice President and Doctor Sarah Traxler During the Nationwide "Fight for Reproductive Freedoms" Tour at Planned Parenthood in St. Paul, Minnesota Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/370780

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