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Kamala Harris says fundamental freedoms are at stake with the Supreme Court rulings

Following a series of monumental Supreme Court rulings, Vice President Kamala Harris says fundamental issues are at stake.

The court handed down three sweeping decisions in two days, upending race-based college admissions, student loan forgiveness and LGBTQ+ protections. The cases were followed with high anticipation that the court, which has a conservative majority, could overturn decades of precedent.

"There's so much at stake," Harris said in an interview with NPR's Michel Martin on Friday, hours after the court wrapped its final day of opinions for the term. The vice president spoke to NPR after speaking at a moderated discussion on maternal health and reproductive rights at the Essence Festival in New Orleans.

The Supreme Court struck down President Biden's $400 billion student debt relief plan, saying he exceeded his executive authority. In another Friday ruling, a conservative justice supermajority sided with a web designer who refused to create websites for same-sex weddings. A day earlier, those same six conservative justices effectively ended affirmative action, the practice of using race as a factor in college admission decisions.

Noting that the rulings arrive a year after the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion, the vice president says she sees a troubling theme that runs through the country's highest court.

"I do believe that there is a national movement afoot," she said, adding, "It is about an attack on foundational freedoms and on the access to opportunity."

On addressing student loan forgiveness, Harris said, "We are going to be creative in the way that we can provide some relief to this population that we have front of mind on this issue."

The vice president says she bears the responsibility of helping inform Americans about their fundamental freedoms such as the right to privacy. But she's counting on voters to help restore protections like reproductive care.

"The court took rights from the people of America," she said. "Congress can put those rights back. We can't."

Her focus right now is also on the campaign trail, where she and Biden are running for 2024 reelection.

"I'm traveling around the country to make sure that people know not only what they have received [under the Biden administration] — because they stood in line for hours during the height of a pandemic in 2020 demanding these things — but also what is yet to come," Harris said. "And that includes what we will do to continue to fight, to make sure that people's freedoms and rights are protected."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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