Vice President Harris visits Savannah on ‘Reproductive Freedoms’ tour

Visit is Harris’ third to Geogia in three months as Biden’s reelection campaign heats up
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks on her Fight for Reproductive Freedoms tour at Savannah Civic Center in Savannah on Tuesday, February 6, 2024. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks on her Fight for Reproductive Freedoms tour at Savannah Civic Center in Savannah on Tuesday, February 6, 2024. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

SAVANNAH ― Vice President Kamala Harris returned to Georgia on Tuesday to make an appeal to abortion rights supporters with the 2024 presidential race fast approaching.

Harris bemoaned attacks on what she called a “fundamental freedom” during her address at the Savannah Civic Center. She labeled state lawmakers who have restricted abortions since the 2022 repeal of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling as “extremists.”

Georgia legislators in 2019 banned abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, typically about six weeks into a pregnancy.

“To truly protect reproductive freedoms, we must restore the protections taken away by the Supreme Court and get a majority in the United States Congress to simply agree that the government should not be making personal decisions,” Harris said. “If they write that law, President Joe Biden will sign it.”

The event is the latest stop in Harris’ “Reproductive Freedoms” tour. She launched the multistate swing last month on the 51st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. That ruling held that the U.S Constitution protected abortion rights prior to the viability of the fetus.

The repeal of Roe v. Wade gave the states the power to craft their own abortion laws. Georgia is one of 21 states to tighten restrictions since.

Harris also used the remarks as an opportunity to attack Biden’s likely general election opponent, former President Donald Trump. She called Trump “the architect of this health care crisis” because he appointed three Supreme Court justices who voted to repeal Roe v. Wade.

Harris met privately with local government officials and abortion activists prior to her speech. She also spent several minutes with the family of Army Reserve Sgt. Breonna Moffett, the 23-year-old Savannahian who was one of three Georgians killed in a drone attack on Jan. 28 in Jordan.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson honored Moffett and fellow reservists Sgt. William Jerome Rivers and Sgt. Kennedy Sanders with a moment of silence in the minutes before Harris delivered her remarks. He called the soldiers “bright, shining stars lifted from us too soon.”

Harris’ speech was briefly interrupted by a pro-Palestinian demonstrator, who was escorted out of the venue. A small group of protesters waving Palestinian flags and holding a banner condemning the Biden administration’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war gathered outside the building.

A protestor interrupts Vice President Kamala Harris during her Fight for Reproductive Freedoms tour at Savannah Civic Center in Savannah on Tuesday, February 6, 2024. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

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Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Following Harris’ remarks she visited a nearby Black-owned small business, Diaspora Marketplace. The store sells African-themed art and has been operated for 21 years by Savannah’s Richard Shinhoster.

The Savannah visit is Harris’ third to Georgia in the past two months as she and Biden appeal to voters ahead of their 2024 reelection bid. Biden won the state by fewer than 12,000 votes in 2020, defeating Trump.

Harris’ other recent Georgia visits were both to Atlanta. She attended the Celebration Bowl in December. The football game pitting teams from historically Black universities was played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Harris’ alma mater, Howard University, played in the game, losing to Florida A&M University.

Harris returned to Atlanta last month to meet with voting rights advocates and pledged to counter what she called a “full-on intent to attack fundamental freedoms and rights in our country.”

First lady Jill Biden will travel to Atlanta on Wednesday to address efforts to improve women’s health in the state.

As for Savannah, the coastal city has been a popular spot for Biden administration officials in recent months. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visited the Georgia Ports Authority’s Garden City Terminal in September, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg traveled to the city to meet with transit officials in December, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge flew into town last week to announce a series of grants to combat homelessness.

Harris has been to Savannah before. As vice president-elect in January 2021, she came to campaign for Raphael Warnock ahead of his 2020 runoff against then-U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler. Harris’ predecessor, Mike Pence, made two trips to Savannah during his term, including one to march in the 2018 Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Johnson recruited Harris to make Tuesday’s visit. He met with the vice president last month during the United States Conference of Mayors in Washington.

“She told me she was coming,” Johnson said Tuesday morning prior to Harris’ arrival, “and here she is.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the owner of Diaspora Marketplace is Richard Shinhoster. An earlier version misidentified him.

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