Kamala Harris hammers Trump for Florida's 6-week abortion ban, warns it will be 'even worse' if he wins

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Vice President Kamala Harris hammered rival Donald Trump in a speech in Jacksonville, Florida, on Wednesday, the day the state's six-week abortion ban took effect, blaming the former president for the new restriction and saying it would be "even worse" if he wins a second term.

"Just this week, in an interview, he said states have the right to monitor pregnant women to enforce these bans and states have the right to punish pregnant women for seeking out abortion care," Harris said, citing Trump's comments in a recent Time magazine story. "So, Florida, the contrast in this election could not be more clear."

"It's irrelevant whether I'm comfortable or not," Trump had told Time magazine, stressing his view that states should be free to enforce or not enforce restrictions that match their voters. "It's totally irrelevant, because the states are going to make those decisions."

"You don't want to go back into the federal government," Trump said in that story. "This was all about getting out of the federal government."

But in Florida, Harris also sought to tie Trump to some Republicans on Capitol Hill, saying, "Donald Trump's friends in the United States Congress are trying to pass a national ban and understand a national ban would outlaw abortion in every single state, even in states like New York and California."

"And now Trump wants us to believe he will not sign a national ban," Harris said, rejecting his insistence that he won't sign such a ban if he's elected back to the White House.

"I say enough with the gaslighting," Harris said. "Enough with the gaslighting."

President Joe Biden also released a statement on Wednesday, blasting Trump and the state's newest abortion ban, calling the restrictions "extreme" for "banning reproductive health care before many women even know they are pregnant."

The new ban has some narrow exceptions, for the life of the pregnant woman for fatal fetal anomalies and in cases of documented rape, incest or trafficking -- up to 15 weeks of pregnancy.

PHOTO: Vice President Kamala Harris speaks about Florida's new 6-week abortion ban during an event, May 1, 2024, in Jacksonville, Fla. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Vice President Kamala Harris speaks about Florida's new 6-week abortion ban during an event, May 1, 2024, in Jacksonville, Fla. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Harris' trip comes a little more than a week after Biden traveled to the state for a campaign event in Tampa. There, the president called out former President Trump by name, blaming him for the spread of abortion bans across the country following the overruling of Roe v. Wade in 2022.

"He's [Trump is] wrong, the Supreme Court was wrong. It should be a constitutional right in the federal Constitution, a federal right, and it shouldn't matter where in America you live," Biden said then, adding, "This is about women's rights."

The Biden-Harris reelection campaign has been seeking to focus on abortion as a defining issue of the 2024 race.

Harris said in her speech on Wednesday that "momentum is on our side," pointing to Americans' support of abortion rights in recent ballot initiative votes in various states across the country.

Since the decision against Roe, handed down by the court's six conservative-leaning justices, including three named by Trump, 17 states have enacted total or near-total bans on abortion access.

Shelly Tien, an abortion provider at a Planned Parenthood health clinic in Jacksonville, told ABC News' Selina Wang on Wednesday that the new ban will have a "devastating and profound" impact for women across the South.

People seeking abortions in Florida will in most cases have to travel to North Carolina and, after 12 weeks of pregnancy, head to Virginia.

"Patients are very scared," Tien said.

She had concerns of her own, as well.

"I follow the law to the best of my understanding," she said, "but it puts physicians in an impossible position where we have to wonder, 'Well, my medical training dictates that I do this' … then on the other hand we have these bans that have very, very, very narrow exceptions that don't incorporate or recognize the complexity and nuances of complicated pregnancy care."

How will the issue sway politics?

Biden's remarks on abortion in Florida were notable given his complicated relationship with the issue of abortion because of his faith as a devout Catholic. Instead, the White House and campaign have largely used Harris as their primary messenger on abortion.

She launched a "Reproductive Freedom Tour" in January and quickly traveled to Arizona in April after that state's Supreme Court ruling upholding a 160-year-old, near-total abortion ban that state lawmakers, including some Republicans, have since voted to repeal.

Ahead of Harris' trip to Florida, the Democratic National Committee held a call with reporters and Southern Democratic leaders, including Democratic Party chairs from Florida, North Carolina and Virginia.

Democrats have been underlining the Biden campaign's attacks on Trump, connecting the former president to state bans and warning that if Trump is elected again, restrictions will become more widespread.

Democrats have also emphasized how abortion rights have come out on top every time voters have been casting ballots about it.

"We have seen reproductive rights initiatives win on every ballot since Roe v. Wade was overturned because the vast majority of Americans believe that reproductive health care decisions should be made by women and their doctors, not politicians," Florida Democratic Chair Nikki Fried said. "And as President Biden has repeatedly said, Trump and extreme Republicans don't have a clue about the power of women in America, but they will soon find out."

Trump, for his part, has celebrated the end of Roe but said abortion should now be determined by each state: "At the end of the day, this is all about the will of the people. You must follow your heart or in many cases, your religion or your faith," he said last month.

While he maintains that he wouldn't sign a national abortion ban as president if Congress passes one, he also hasn't said that he would veto such a law if needed.

"I won't have to commit to it because it'll never -- No. 1, it'll never happen, No. 2, it's about states' rights," he told Time in the magazine's recent story.

PHOTO: Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a roundtable on criminal justice in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, April 25, 2024.  (Bonnie Cash/Reuters)
PHOTO: Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a roundtable on criminal justice in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, April 25, 2024. (Bonnie Cash/Reuters)

Harris' trip to Florida marks her 12th visit to the state since being sworn in as vice president, a sign of how seriously her and Biden's campaign is about trying to win back Florida this election cycle following Trump's 2016 and 2020 wins.

Evan Power, the chair of the Florida GOP, contends that abortion isn't the issue to tip the state in the opposing party's favor.

"Democrats made [abortion] the No. 1 issue that they ran in on in Florida in 2022 and we won by 19% of the votes," Power previously told ABC News.

Referring to the six-week ban, Power has said, "This is what the voters sent their legislators to Tallahassee to deliver on and they did deliver on it. So I don't think there's a backlash coming in at all."

MORE: Abortion could dominate the 2024 election in Florida. Will that help Democrats flip the state?

But national and state Democrats believe that the combination of the state's six-week abortion ban and an abortion ballot measure, which would allow access to the procedure up to viability -- considered to be at about the 24th week of pregnancy -- will give the party a stronger chance of flipping the state in November given that abortion access has been seen as a winning issue for Democrats since 2022.

"Our agenda, our coalition, and the unique dynamics this election presents make it clear: President Biden is in a stronger position to win Florida this cycle than he was in 2020," Biden's campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, wrote in a memo in early April, reflecting the cautious optimism among some in her party.

Amanda Zurawski, a Texas woman who says she nearly died after she was denied care for a miscarriage, told ABC News that Florida's abortion ban is "devastating" and heartbreaking."

"I'm scared for every state in this country right now," Zurawski said. "Even states that are you know, quote unquote, safe… If Trump is reelected, this is going to be a national problem and no one is going to be safe, so it's terrifying."

Abortion opponents see it differently.

Nicole Love, protesting outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Jacksonville on Wednesday, called the six-week ban a victory but said that she opposes both Biden and Trump as "too old" and doesn't plan to vote for either in the general election.

Deacon Deluca and Carol Butler, two other demonstrators with Love, said they will support Trump in November and agree with his position that abortion access should be left up to each state.

ABC News' Ely Brown and Libby Cathey contributed to this report.

Kamala Harris hammers Trump for Florida's 6-week abortion ban, warns it will be 'even worse' if he wins originally appeared on abcnews.go.com