As College Students Protest, Harris Keeps Her Focus on Abortion


Vice President Kamala Harris, campaigning on Monday in Wisconsin, again took sharp swipes at former President Donald J. Trump for his actions on abortion, a hot topic across the country. But she stayed silent on the war in Gaza, another issue erupting elsewhere among the critical bloc of young voters she has been courting.

The split screen captured the advantages and challenges for Democrats as they head into the presidential election in November. Even as the party is looking to galvanize voters over the wave of abortion restrictions in numerous states since Roe v. Wade was overturned, it is facing internal divisions among key parts of its coalition.

On Monday, as demonstrations gripped college campuses on the East Coast, Ms. Harris kept her attention squarely focused on Mr. Trump and what she described as his attacks on women. She cast the 2024 election as a choice over the preservation of freedom, which she called “fundamental to the promise of America.”

“This is a moment where we must stand up for foundational, fundamental values and principles,” she told roughly 100 people at a community center in La Crosse, in the western part of the state. “When we think about what is at stake, it is absolutely about freedom.”

Abortion rights have become a focus of President Biden’s re-election bid, and Ms. Harris has had a leading role.

Her La Crosse event was part of daylong trip to the battleground state that was focused on official and campaign duties centered on health care and reproductive rights. Earlier in the day, Ms. Harris met for a round-table discussion with health care workers and leaders and unveiled two Biden administration rule changes meant to benefit hundreds of thousands of health care workers.

The changes will institute new national minimum staffing standards for federally funded nursing homes — the first of their kind — and a new requirement to help increase pay for home health care workers by requiring that 80 percent of Medicaid payments for home care services be spent on paying workers as opposed to administrative expenses.

But her silence on the Israel-Hamas conflict was notable. Ms. Harris has been working to shore up Mr. Biden’s weaknesses with young and Black voters. She has made repeated visits to South Carolina, started a tour of colleges last year and is making the rounds across the campaign trail to defend abortion rights and promote the Democratic agenda.

Wisconsin is a crucial swing state for Democrats, part of their so-called blue wall and one of a handful of states that are likely to decide the November race.

“We’re not fighting against something, we’re fighting for all that we believe in to be good and right about our country,” Ms. Harris said.



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