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Vice President Harris will emphasize abortion rights during a visit to Wisconsin

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

President Biden narrowly won Wisconsin in 2020, and recent polls indicate most people in the state support abortion rights. That's a topic the Biden-Harris campaign wants to emphasize in their reelection bid. Chuck Quirmbach of member station WUWM in Milwaukee reports ahead of a trip Vice President Kamala Harris has planned to the Badger State.

CHUCK QUIRMBACH, BYLINE: Abortion rights supporters in Wisconsin say they had a pretty good year in 2023. Abortions resumed last fall after being halted for more than a year. That was due to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, which had declared a constitutional right to abortion. Now with Monday, the 51st anniversary of Roe, Vice President Kamala Harris will be in suburban Milwaukee to emphasize abortion rights ahead of the 2024 elections. The topic is already on the minds of some people.

About 40 members of the group Motherhood for Good gathered on a subzero afternoon in typically Republican Brookfield, just outside Milwaukee. The progressive group of mostly suburban moms and other women advocates for abortion rights and more access to affordable childcare. Motherhood for Good founder Kate Duffy says she plans to listen to what Kamala Harris has to say. As Duffy says, abortion rights are still under attack.

KATE DUFFY: To have somebody at such a high level continue to reiterate how big of a priority it is to her and is to the president and the administration is really important. And it's going to be something we're talking about a lot within our group in the coming months leading up to the election.

QUIRMBACH: Some who follow the group said they used to back Republican presidential candidates. Kaleena Stephan voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 but adds that attacks on abortion rights and other topics turned her away from the GOP. Stephan says access to abortion is also an economic issue.

KALEENA STEPHAN: They are very much intertwined, and the ability for a woman to decide when, if and how she expands her family, that she decides to become a mother - that is central to women's ability to create financial stability.

QUIRMBACH: Marquette University pollster Charles Franklin says the vice president's visit to Wisconsin can possibly reinforce some of the Democratic gains that have occurred in the suburbs here but also energize some large-city Democrats who, polling says, have become less enthusiastic about President Joe Biden. Biden only won Wisconsin by about 20,000 votes four years ago, following a narrow win by Donald Trump in 2016. Franklin cautions that many voters in big elections pay attention to multiple topics.

CHARLES FRANKLIN: So it's still unclear just how big a role abortion will play in the presidential race. Some role, certainly, but it will be competing with those other issues, like the economy and immigration.

QUIRMBACH: All the remaining Republican presidential candidates - Donald Trump, Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis - say they support restrictions on abortion. Wisconsin abortion rights opponent Briana Arnold is an organizer for Turning Point Action, a national conservative group focused on younger voters. Arnold says it's important to eventually get behind the strongest anti-abortion rights candidate this fall.

BRIANA ARNOLD: If someone is not in favor of whoever the nominee is, they can't just not vote for the person because in theory, that's just giving a vote to the Democrats.

QUIRMBACH: The Biden-Harris campaign says besides the vice president's visit to Wisconsin, a new paid media effort about abortion rights is targeting women and swing voters in battleground states. For NPR News, I'm Chuck Quirmbach in Milwaukee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Chuck Quirmbach
Chuck Quirmbach joined WUWM in August, 2018, as Innovation Reporter, covering developments in science, health and business.

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