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Harris says abortion-rights supporters must stand together ahead of Nov. elections

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Vice President Kamala Harris has taken a leadership role in the White House's response to the Supreme Court's decision to reverse abortion rights. It's part of a long career of working on issues around protection of women and girls. She sat down with NPR's Asma Khalid as part of the NPR Politics Podcast to talk more about her fight ahead.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: I began our interview by asking the vice president to respond to criticism from the left that there is not this sense of urgency from this White House about protecting abortion rights.

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: There is no daylight among us who understand the seriousness of this moment and the real consequence to millions of women and those who love them around our country. Now, the question becomes, what can we do?

KHALID: And that's where...

HARRIS: And what should we do?

KHALID: ...I guess, you know, some of these women are saying, well, why not be out in the streets? Why not be out, you know...

HARRIS: Well, but that's...

KHALID: ...Meeting with women? Yeah.

HARRIS: ...Exactly - all of these things need to happen. All of these things need to happen. We need to stand up and speak loudly about why this is something that we will fight against. And part of that fight has to include understanding that the court has now acted, and now we're going to need Congress to act. And that means passing legislation that, as we say, codifies Roe, which means let's put it into law so it is beyond debate.

KHALID: She also said there's a lot more at risk beyond abortion.

HARRIS: I think that the right to privacy that extends to allowing an individual to make decisions about whether they will start a family, including the access to in-vitro fertilization, is arguably now at risk. I believe the right to privacy that was an extension of our, finally, correct decision in Obergefell to allow same-sex marriage - I do believe that is now at risk. So let's understand that this court has, in many ways, opened up analysis and arguments that all of these things are on the table. And, again, you only need look at Clarence Thomas' concurring opinion to know that that's the case.

KHALID: And so what do you do as Democrats?

HARRIS: Well, I think what we do - yeah.

KHALID: I mean, do you think it ought to be codified?

HARRIS: I...

KHALID: Do you want that to...

HARRIS: Well, I think what we do is a number of things. First and foremost, we understand that there are many things that we have long taken for granted - in the case of same-sex marriage, not as long - but that we have taken for granted and assumed to be the indications of progress in our country that we actually have now learned we may not be able to take for granted. So we stand up, and we are clear about what we are not willing to accept and what we will fight for.

KHALID: But she stopped short of saying whether Democrats in Congress should actually bring that legislation up immediately, and she didn't want to talk about the filibuster. That's the 60-vote threshold that most pieces of legislation need to pass in the Senate. I also asked her, aside from congressional action, are there any changes this White House would consider proposing to change the makeup of the Supreme Court? She reiterated that the president is opposed to expanding the Supreme Court, and she would not engage on the idea of term limits. She had really one main message.

HARRIS: I personally think we need to win the midterms (laughter). If you were to - if you're asking me to reduce it to one issue, but it is not only one issue. But if you want to know what I think is one of the greatest charges right now - because after 130-something days, we would have lost an opportunity to potentially change the configuration of the United States Congress.

KHALID: A hundred and thirty-two days till Election Day in November - that is the window for Harris and Democrats to make the case that they have a strategy - not just to win seats in Congress, but also a plan on how exactly they intend to cement abortion rights into law.

Asma Khalid, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.