© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

First Lady Jill Biden and the Women for Biden-Harris program come to Waukesha

First Lady Jill Biden speaks during Sunday's rally at the Waukesha Expo Center.
Chuck Quirmbach
First Lady Jill Biden speaks during Sunday's rally at the Waukesha Expo Center.

The Biden/Harris campaign is trying to gain more support from suburban women voters in Wisconsin. So, First Lady Jill Biden came to Waukesha Sunday for a rally that drew about 200 people.

The First Lady spent the weekend making speeches in four battleground states including Wisconsin, launching what her husband’s presidential campaign calls Women for Biden/Harris.

Signs promote support for President Joe Biden.
Chuck Quirmbach
Signs promote support for President Joe Biden.

Sunday afternoon, at the Waukesha Expo Center, much of the speaking program focused on women’s reproductive rights. Green Bay obstetrician Anna Igler told the crowd how during her pregnancy in 2020, her fetus was diagnosed with severe abnormalities and Igler had an abortion.

Dr. Igler says abortion is health care.

“It’s about compassion. Compassion, autonomy, and the right to make decisions about our own bodies. And politicians like Donald Trump have no place in my exam room," Igler said to cheers.

Several speakers criticized the former GOP president for recently saying he’s considering backing a national abortion ban at 15 weeks of pregnancy. Trump, on the presidential campaign trail this year, has also bragged about appointing Supreme Court justices who helped overturn Roe vs. Wade.

That 2022 ruling in the Dobbs case led to about 15 months when almost no abortions were performed in Wisconsin.

Some of the audience members at the Jill Biden event Sunday at the Waukesha Expo Center complex.
Chuck Quirmbach
Some of the audience members at the Jill Biden event Sunday at the Waukesha Expo Center complex.

In contrast, First Lady Jill Biden praises her husband’s record.

“President Biden is defending reproductive rights. Fighting for a national law that would restore Roe’s protections. Yes, and that means protecting IVF and access to contraception," Biden said.

An Alabama judge’s ruling on frozen embryos in an IVF (in vitro fertilization) case has led Democrats to blame Trump for further limits on reproductive options. Trump contends he would strongly support the availability of IVF.

While political scientists say there are many big issues in this year’s presidential contest, several people in Sunday’s audience in Waukesha said reproductive rights is their top concern.

For instance—Elm Grove resident Tricia Vanlear said, “It’s important to me because I feel the government should not be dictating to women what to do with their bodies. I’m very concerned for all the women that I know. Women in my family. My stepdaughter—everyone."

Janette Braverman of Mequon also lists reproductive rights as a top issue.

“Very important for us to have our own rights, so they’re not dictated by the Republican Party. So that is something that I want to see. I want to see us succeed in that space," Braverman said.

More of the audience at Sunday's speech by First Lady Jill Biden.
Chuck Quirmbach
More of the audience at Sunday's speech by First Lady Jill Biden.

Include Vasanthi Pillai of Madison as listing women’s rights as her key concern:

“What Trump did has relegated us to second-class citizens. So, this is something we really need to fight for, and I found Jill Biden’s speech very empowering," Pillai told WUWM Sunday.

Pillai was at the Biden event with Bala Bhagavath, an IVF doctor in Madison.

“What’s happening nationwide—this is really important for us to defend the right for everybody to build a family, which is being attacked at this point in time. So, that’s the reason I came. To make sure I show my support," Dr. Bhagavath said.

Bhagavath said reproductive rights are a basic freedom, that when under attack, everything else becomes secondary.

The First Lady’s visit came amid a somewhat discouraging weekend for President Joe Biden. Newly-released polls by the New York Times and CBS show Trump with a national lead over President Biden.

The Wisconsin Republican Party criticized the White House for sending the First Lady to the state, instead of Joe Biden, to make the case for what Republicans call, "the President’s abysmal record, and tired presidency."

But Biden supporter Peggy Reeder of Germantown said if the GOP is taking another shot at the President’s age, she isn’t impressed.

“The age thing doesn’t bother me because it’s his whole administration doing this all together. You know, Biden and Congress, and I think they’re doing a great job. They’re under-credited for what they do. His age isn’t an issue to me," Reeder said.

Reeder said she used to be a political independent, but now finds it obvious Democrats have the better candidate, including on reproductive rights.

She said she’ll be reaching out to voters with whom she feels she can reason.

And so will the presumed Democratic ticket. For example, Vice-President Kamala Harris is due back in Wisconsin for a campaign event on Wednesday.