First Lady stumps for Biden ticket in Tucson

This article was originally published by Tucson Sentinel.

Jill Biden discusses abortion rights while administration critics protest Gaza war outside Fox Theatre
Posted Mar 3, 2024, 7:08 pm
Jim Nintzel

First Lady Jill Biden said presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is a threat to women’s rights during a Saturday visit to Tucson.

“Donald Trump is dangerous to women and to our families,” Biden said. “We simply cannot let him win.”

Biden recalled a story about the challenges faced by a teenage friend who sought an abortion in the 1960s before reproductive rights were guaranteed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which was overturned in the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling. Her friend had to undergo a psychological examination before she could be allowed to have an abortion.

“Shame. Silence. Danger. Even death. That’s what’s defined that time ago for so many women,” Jill Biden said. “How could we go back to that time?”

Since Roe was overturned, many states have been enforcing new restrictions on abortion. A 2022 Arizona law prevents abortions after 15 weeks except in cases of medical emergency. The Arizona Supreme Court heard arguments in December 2023 about whether the state should enforce a 1864 territorial-era law that bans the procedure, with the only exemption to save the life of a mother.

Last month in Alabama, the state’s high court ruled that embryos should be considered children, leading to new legal wrinkles regarding in vitro fertilization procedures. Several clinics shut down their IVF operations over concerns of legal liability, including criminal charges.

“Republicans led by Donald Trump are passing laws that prevent women from getting the health care they need, including IVF,” the president’s wife told a crowd at the Fox Tucson Theatre. “Donald Trump has spent a lifetime tearing us down and devaluing our existence. He mocks women’s bodies, disrespects our accomplishments and brags about assault. Now he’s bragging about killing Roe v. Wade.”

In Tucson as part of the national launch of the Women for Biden-Harris campaign, Biden appeared at the 20th anniversary celebration of Arizona List, a political action committee that supports pro-choice female candidates.

“Our country has made incredible progress in my lifetime,” Biden said. “Yet too often, we still ask women to choose between different parts of themselves. And all around us, there are extremists who are working harder than ever to drag us back to a past that we thought was long over.”

Biden reminded the crowd of 600 at the Downtown venue that Arizona went for Joe Biden over Donald Trump in 2020, the first time a Democrat had beaten a Republican since Bill Clinton won the state in 1996.

“When our bodies are on the line, when our daughters’ cute kids are at stake, when our country’s freedoms hang in the balance, we are immovable and unstoppable,” Biden said. “Arizona, you were essential to our win in 2020 and I know we will win this state again.”

On four different occasions during the first lady’s speech, protestors heckled her over the Biden administration’s support of Israel’s ongoing military action in Gaza. They were quickly removed by security.

As attendees later left the event, a group of protestors outside the Fox delivered chants such as “Genocide Joe has got to go” and “Ceasefire now!”

The protest was indicative of concerns by some political strategists that groups that supported Biden in 2020, particularly young voters and Arab-American voters, might lack enthusiasm for the 2024 ticket. A November NBC News poll showed that 79 percent of voters between the ages of 18 and 34 disapproved of Biden’s handling of the Gaza conflict.

Democrats hope the abortion issue will deliver wins in November. Voters have supported abortion rights on various ballot issues around the country and, assuming supporters of the ballot initiative are successful in gathering a minimum of 383,923 valid signatures by July 8, voters will have a chance to enshrine abortion rights in the Arizona Constitution.

Attorney Maya Harris, a former dean of Lincoln Law School who served as an advisor to Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful run for the presidency in 2016, said that opponents of abortion were “fighting to take an Arizona abortion law enacted in 1864 and impose that law in 2024. … How crazy is that? A law passed when Arizona was still a territory, not even a state. A law passed before women could vote. A law passed before women could own property. A law passed during the Civil War. That’s their vision for the future of women in this country.”

“Let’s speak directly and honestly about what’s really going on here,” said Harris, the sister of Vice President Kamala Harris. “This is about power. This is about control. And we are in an all-out battle for the future of women’s freedom.”

Arizona List celebrates 20 years

Arizona List’s anniversary celebration honored co-founder Pam Grissom, who based the organization on Emily’s List, the national organization that provides funding to female Democratic candidates. Arizona Lists recruits, trains and helps candidates with financial and other support.

Grissom recalled she used to get into trouble in high school for arguing that girls and boys should have to follow the same rules.

“I had never heard the word ‘feminist’ but I knew as a teenager, it was the girls who got into trouble, not the boys,” Grissom recalled. “And women definitely had no power.”

She said she was inspired to launch Arizona List “to start changing Arizona by electing more pro-choice Democratic women. It hasn’t always been easy, but for 20 years, Arizona List has been learning, growing and responding to the need for more progressive women running for office.”

“We don’t win every election, but we sure do win a lot,” Grissom said.

The event included recorded testimonials from dozens of female elected officials across the state, including Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans and Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes.

“Thank you, Pam, for everything you have done and for everything Arizona List has done in getting people like me elected to office,” Mayes said.

Biden also recognized Grissom’s work.

“Pam, look at what you’ve built,” Biden said. “Twenty years ago, you had a vision that electing more women in office in Arizona would make a better, brighter future. And every day since then, you’ve worked to make that vision a reality.”

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