Kamala Harris blames Trump for abortion ban in Arizona

By Ted Hesson and Trevor Hunnicutt

TUCSON, Arizona (Reuters) -U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday blamed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for the loss of abortion rights in Arizona, three days after a court there upheld a 160-year-old ban on the procedure.

Arizona's conservative Supreme Court sent a shockwave through one of 2024's most competitive election states, which could swing the presidential race and determine control of the Senate.

Strategists in both parties said the ruling, which outlaws nearly all abortions, would push even Republican-leaning moderates toward Democrats, while also animating young voters and voters of color.

"We all must understand who is to blame: former President Donald Trump did this," Harris said before an audience that included reproductive health patients and providers in Tucson. "A second Trump term would be even worse... If Donald Trump gets the chance, he will sign a national abortion ban."

Trump, set to face U.S. President Joe Biden again in November's election, has distanced himself from the Arizona ruling. On Wednesday, he said the court had gone too far in reviving a near-total abortion ban, even while defending the Supreme Court decision that permitted states to restrict abortion.

"President Trump could not have been more clear. These are decisions for people of each state to make," said Karoline Leavitt, a Trump campaign spokesperson.

Biden beat Trump in Arizona by fewer than 11,000 votes out of 3.3 million ballots cast in 2020, the Democrat's narrowest margin of victory in any state.

Democrats think their opposition to restrictions on reproductive rights can help them secure another victory in the border state where voters had been more focused on cost-of-living issues and immigration.

Biden has tasked Harris, a former prosecutor and senator, with leading the administration's reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court's 2022 ruling overturning abortion rights and with reaching core liberal voters undecided on a second, four-year term for the president.

The Supreme Court's decision overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision was powered by a conservative majority that Trump installed.

Harris visited Phoenix, Arizona's capital, just last month to talk about abortion rights as part of a "Fight for Reproductive Freedoms" tour that has taken her to 20 states and included a visit to a Minnesota health clinic that offers abortion services.

U.S. Representative Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat running for a U.S. Senate seat in the western state, criticized his Republican opponent Kari Lake for previously backing the abortion ban even though Lake disavowed the court ruling to reinstate it.

Gallego traveled with Harris from Washington to Tucson and was set to hold another event on the topic in Phoenix later on Friday.

"We don't want this to be our brand. Arizona's a state that's got a booming economy," Gallego told reporters aboard Air Force Two. "Now we look like this state that is relegating our women back to the 1860 laws?"

The Biden campaign has aired an advertisement in Arizona in which a Texas woman tearfully describes almost dying after she was denied an abortion following a miscarriage. Across a black screen, the words "Donald Trump did this" flash as her sobs continue in the background.

Asked at the White House on Wednesday what he would say to the people of Arizona, Biden replied, "Elect me."

Biden ran on legalizing abortion but Democrats did not deliver him such a bill when they controlled Congress by slim margins from 2021-2023.

(Reporting by Ted Hesson in Tucson, Arizona, and Trevor Hunnicutt in WashingtonEditing by Don Durfee, Diane Craft and Josie Kao)