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During DNC speech in St. Louis, Harris blasts states like Missouri with abortion bans

United States Vice President Kamala Harris reacts as she is introduced on Friday, Oct. 6, 2023, during the Democratic National Committee Fall Meeting at the Marriott St. Louis Grand in downtown St. Louis.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
United States Vice President Kamala Harris reacts as she is introduced on Friday, Oct. 6, 2023, during the Democratic National Committee Fall Meeting at the Marriott St. Louis Grand in downtown St. Louis.

Vice President Kamala Harris was in St. Louis on Friday to speak to the Democratic National Committee’s fall meeting.

Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday blasted states like Missouri that have strict abortion bans, telling fellow Democrats that not having exceptions for people who become pregnant because of rape and incest is “immoral.”

Harris was the key afternoon speaker at the Democratic National Committee’s fall meeting in downtown St. Louis. Much of her conversation with veteran Democratic strategist Donna Brazile revolved around issues on the minds of college students Harris spoke to over the summer.

In addition to being concerned about climate change and gun control, Gen Z voters are outraged by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Harris said. That ruling led a number of states to prohibit or impose restrictive limits on abortion. Minutes after Roe fell, Missouri barred most abortions except for medical emergencies.

Harris said that she was driven to become a prosecutor earlier in her career after one of her friends in high school was molested by her stepfather. And she expressed outrage that states banned abortion without exceptions for rape or incest.

Linda Davenport, 79, of Barnhart, goes up the escalator to attend Vice President Kamala Harris’ keynote speech on Friday, Oct. 6, 2023, during the Democratic National Committee Fall Meeting at the Marriott St. Louis Grand in downtown St. Louis.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Linda Davenport, 79, of Barnhart, goes up the escalator to attend Vice President Kamala Harris’ keynote speech on Friday, Oct. 6, 2023, during the Democratic National Committee Fall Meeting at the Marriott St. Louis Grand in downtown St. Louis.

“After someone has survived a crime of violence to their body, a violation to their body … that they cannot have the authority to make a decision about what happens to their body next, that is immoral,” Harris said. “And regardless of party affiliation, regardless of one's personal beliefs and the faith that they practice, most people understand what we're talking about.”

Young female voters, Harris said, have told her they are dismayed that there is no longer a nationwide right to an abortion and “are acutely aware that they will have fewer rights than their mothers or grandmothers.”

“And they are willing to fight to get those rights back,” Harris said. “They also appreciate that on this issue, one does not have to abandon their faith, or deeply held beliefs, to agree the government should not be telling her what to do with her body.”

Abortion rights activists in Missouri are trying to put a ballot measure before voters next year that would roll back the state’s ban. Some proposals are fairly expansive, while others are fairly incremental. Any abortion-related proposal would need around 171,000 signatures to go before voters in 2024.

Harris noted that state ballot measures that have either protected or expanded abortion rights have typically found success.

“When this issue was on the ballot, anywhere from Kansas to California, the voters voted in favor of freedom and liberty, and reproductive choice,” Harris said. “The majority of Americans are with us on this. And so that is important to remember.”

Ryan Scofield, 32, of Chattanooga, Tenn, sports his “Dark Brandon” button on Friday, Oct. 6, 2023, during the Democratic National Committee Fall Meeting at the Marriott St. Louis Grand in downtown St. Louis.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Ryan Scofield, 32, of Chattanooga, Tenn, sports his “Dark Brandon” button on Friday, Oct. 6, 2023, during the Democratic National Committee Fall Meeting at the Marriott St. Louis Grand in downtown St. Louis.

On the campaign trail

Harris and President Joe Biden announced their re-election bid earlier this year. While Biden’s approval ratings have been low for several years, Harris and other Democrats at the DNC gathering sought to make the case for a second term.

“We are going to win,” Harris said. ‘And here's why that's gonna happen. One, we got a lot of good material.”

Among other things, Harris pointed to the administration’s record on job creation and efforts to push Congress to expand efforts to address climate change. She also said there’s a stark contrast between Biden’s presidency and Republicans, alluding to the chaos that ensued this week after the ouster of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

She said that she and Biden were presenting a different type of leadership style to the American people.

Barb Brumfield, 73, of Fairview Heights, waits in line to attend Vice President Kamala Harris’ keynote speech on Friday, Oct. 6, 2023, during the Democratic National Committee Fall Meeting at the Marriott St. Louis Grand in downtown St. Louis. “I’m all excited and I can’t wait to get started with all the campaign stuff,” she said. “This is a way to get things kicked off.”
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Barb Brumfield, 73, of Fairview Heights, waits in line to attend Vice President Kamala Harris’ keynote speech on Friday, Oct. 6, 2023, during the Democratic National Committee Fall Meeting at the Marriott St. Louis Grand in downtown St. Louis. “I’m all excited and I can’t wait to get started with all the campaign stuff,” she said. “This is a way to get things kicked off.”

“I think that there's something very perverse that is happening in our country right now, where the suggestion is that the strength of a leader is measured based on who they beat down,” Harris said. “When in fact, I think we all agree and believe the strength of a leader is measured by who you lift up.”

Whoever gets the Republican presidential nomination likely will be favored to win Missouri’s electoral votes, as the state hasn’t voted for a Democratic ticket since 1996. But some Democratic candidates on next year’s ballot said Friday that there were tangible benefits to having the DNC meeting in St. Louis.

“I want folks to know that we are relevant in the electoral process, and we’re going to do everything we can to win,” said state Rep. Richard Brown, a Kansas City Democrat running for lieutenant governor.

Added Missouri House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, who is running for governor next year, “Having the DNC here in Missouri has given us an opportunity to be able to share with folks from across the entire country why investing in Missouri matters.”

Copyright 2023 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Jason Rosenbaum