At their first joint campaign rally of the election year, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday argued reproductive rights were on the ballot in November.

One day after the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that guaranteed the constitutional right to an abortion, the two Democratic leaders argued that their likely opponent in November, former President Donald Trump is not only to blame for the ruling being overturned, but is poised to go further.

“​​Let there be no mistake, the person most responsible for taking away this freedom in America is Donald Trump,” Biden said on Tuesday. 

What You Need To Know

  • President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris teamed up for a rally about abortion rights in Virginia on Tuesday

  • It was a clear sign that preserving abortion rights will continue to serve as one of Biden and Harris’ key pitches to voters ahead of what is expected to be a contentious 2024 race, likely featuring a Biden-Trump rematch 
  • Biden and Harris both held events Monday to mark the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade; the president met with his reproductive rights task force and announced new actions to expand abortion access at the White House, while Harris held an event in battleground Wisconsin

  • Trump helped pave the way for overturning Roe v. Wade by nominating three conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, a fact that the Biden campaign plans to remind voters of at every opportunity

It was a clear sign that preserving abortion rights will continue to serve as one of the Democrats' key pitches to voters ahead of what is expected to be a heavily contested 2024 race. 

“Former President Trump hand-picked three Supreme Court justices because he intended for them to overturn Roe,” Harris said when she spoke ahead of the president. “He intended for them to take your freedoms. He is the architect of this healthcare crisis. And he is not done.” 

“Even if you live in a state where extremist Republicans are not in charge of the state government, your right to choose, your right to privacy is still at risk,” Biden said, referring to the possibility a Republican in the White House could sign a national abortion ban. “But as long as I have power of the presidency, know this: if Congress were to pass a national abortion ban, I will veto it.”

The president and vice president ventured about an hour from the White House to Manasas, Va., for Tuesday’s event, where they were joined by both of their spouses: first lady Jill Biden and second gentleman Doug Emhoff. 

“As a father, as a husband, as a son, but also as a longtime lawyer, who really cares about the rule of law, I know that everything's on the line, our rights are on the line, our futures are on the line, our health and safety of our families are on the line,” Emhoff said. 

“We need men in this fight, too,” the first lady said, taking the podium after Emhoff, the first-ever second gentleman. 

While Trump has touted his role in paving the way for Roe’s reversal, he has criticized state laws that emerged in its wake banning abortion at very early on in a pregnancy. In September, he called the six-week ban in Florida, signed by former 2024 GOP presidential candidate Gov. Ron DeSantis, “a terrible mistake.” 

The rally came one day after Biden and Harris marked the 51st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade, which the Supreme Court overturned in June 2022. 

Harris, who has emerged as a central voice for the Biden administration on the abortion issue, commemorated the day in battleground Wisconsin on Monday, where she delivered remarks and kicked off her statewide tour on the issue. 

At the White House on Monday, Biden convened his task force on reproductive healthcare access where he heard directly from physicians on the frontlines, as well as key members of his Cabinet about implementation of the actions he has taken on the issue within his executive power since Roe’s overturning. 

“The cruelty is astounding. And it's a direct affront to a woman's dignity, to be told by extreme politicians and judges to wait to get sicker and sicker, “ Biden said on Tuesday of women being denied abortion care, reiterating a point he made during brief remarks at the top of Monday’s meeting. 

The Biden administration on Monday also announced new initiatives aimed at expanding access to a wider range of contraceptives as well as increasing awareness of what the White House believes are patients’ rights in emergency medical situations, including related to pregnancy. 

The issue of abortion has motivated voters nationwide since the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling, the decision that returned the issue of abortion access to individual states and sparked bans and restrictions on the procedure in states around the country.

“Virginia is the only safe haven for abortion in the south and we worked very hard to keep it that way,” Rep. Jennifer McClellan, D-Va., said in an interview with Spectrum News at Tuesday’s event. Democrats cemented control of both the state Senate and House in November’s off-year election. 

“Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans, including the Speaker of the House, are hell bent on going even further,” Biden warned Tuesday. 

Since then, voters in traditionally red states like Kansas and Ohio overwhelmingly backed measures codifying abortion rights. The topic was a main focus for many Democratic campaigns in the 2022 midterm election where the party had a better-than expected showing. Support for abortion access has risen to record highs in recent polling in the aftermath of Roe’s reversal. 

“When you go out and talk to women and you talk about women’s reproductive rights, the audience lights up. They’re prepared to fight,” Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, said in an interview with Spectrum News on Tuesday. “And we’re all energized.”

"We live in Virginia, our legislature is going to try to enshrine the right to abortion in our state constitution starting this year," Stuart Gibson, a voter from Reston, Va., who attended Tuesday's rally and is supporting Biden told Spectrum News in an interview. "We see what happened in Ohio, we see what happened in other red states, where people know that their rights have been taken away from an unelected Supreme Court. And now they want their rights back."

The choice to focus their first 2024 rally with all four White House principles on abortion rights signaled the president’s reelection campaign is counting on the issue remaining salient in 2024 as Biden faces low approval ratings, struggles to convince voters the economy is doing well under his leadership and navigates multiple world crises. 

In a clear display of the headwinds facing Biden, the president’s speech on Tuesday was interrupted about ten times by individual protestors calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war. 

“Genocide Joe has got to go,” one protestor chanted repeatedly, using a nickname some displeased with Biden’s handling of the conflict have called the president. 

But each one was drowned out by chants of “four more years” from Biden supporters. 

The president has faced mounting pressure – both internationally and from some at home, especially on the left – over his continued support of Israel as the Palestinian civilian death toll in Gaza has risen. 

Dr. Kori Ricketts, a voter who attended Tuesday’s event and works for Reproductive Freedom for All, a non-profit focused on abortion rights, said while she plans to vote for Biden this year, the “driving factor” behind her vote is that “the alternative is unacceptable” rather than an enthusiasm for the incumbent president. 

“What is happening in Palestine right now is my main reasoning,” Ricketts said in an interview with Spectrum News ahead of the speech on Tuesday of her concerns about Biden. “While I don't necessarily want my taxes to support what is happening right now, I do also understand that to not vote for Biden is a vote for Trump, and that's unacceptable.”

Ricketts said she wants Biden to support a cease-fire in the war, telling Spectrum she believes the president has been “incredibly passive” on the issue. 

At the same time, Ricketts said Biden’s commitment to supporting abortion rights is personally important to her. 

“My sister lives in Texas. I worry about her every single day. She is of birthing age and so I worry about if something happens to her all the time,” Ricketts said. “And so none of us are safe and we cannot take this moment lightly.”

Texas has one of the strictest abortion bans in the country. 

Republicans often argue Democrats are too extreme on the issue, specifically making the case their position would allow for abortion “up until birth.”

“Republicans continue to stand with unborn children, vulnerable mothers, and the majority of Americans who believe that life is precious and worth defending, while Democrats will continue to push their extreme abortion agenda that hurts children and families alike. Can Biden name any abortion he doesn’t support?” Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said in response to the Biden-Harris rally.

Biden’s Virginia rally took place as voters across New Hampshire took to the polls for the nation’s first primary of 2024. Biden is not on the ballot in the state due to a disagreement between the Democratic National Committee and local New Hampshire officials over this year’s primary order. It is possible Biden can still win through write-in votes. 

Spectrum News' Cassie Semyon contributed to this report