The Supreme Court appears to be poised curtail abortion rightsAccess legislation is unlikely to be codified anywhere in federal law. So some advocates for abortion access are looking to the White House to make a more forceful case — and they want the message to come from the president himself.
President Joe Biden said that he supports Roe v. WadeAdvocates generally approve of the policy changes his administration has made. Many would like Biden, who has 50 years of abortion rights remaining, to use his bully pulpit to advocate the rights to abortion, which are highly valued by the voters, and then go on the offensive for their protection. Other groups declined to discuss the president’s position and are actively working with the White House to shape its response.
“This country follows the leader,” said Renee Bracey Sherman, founder of the group We Testify, an organization that aims to increase the diversity of voices talking about abortion. “The starting point would be he comes and addresses the nation on the abortion crisis that is happening right now. … He needs to come out and put out a vision for full reproductive justice.”
“A statement, him using his own mouth … that is the absolute bare minimum he could do and he can’t even muster it right now,” she added.
Bracey Sherman was referring to Biden’s response or lack thereof last week to the Supreme Court oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, when a majority of justices weighing Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban seemed open to either fully overturning RoeAltering its core protection: A constitutional rights to an abortion until a foetus can live without the womb. This is usually around 24 weeks after pregnancy.
The White House has not issued an official statement on the matter. Dobbs. Both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ Twitter accounts were silent on the matter. When a reporter asked Biden at an event for his reaction to the justices signaling they’re on the “verge of major changes to abortion law” and whether he had plans to try to “clarify the law,” his response was brief.
“I didn’t see any of the debate today — or just the presentation today. And I support Roe v. Wade. I think it’s a rational position to take, and I continue to support it,” Biden said.
White House spokesperson Jen Psaki later said that the president had “quite a busy schedule” the day of the oral arguments and that Biden would be “updated and briefed by his team.”
“I would note that the president believes that the Mississippi law blatantly violates women’s constitutional rights to safe and legal abortions. … As we’ve outlined before and he’s mentioned before, he’s committed to working with Congress to codify the constitutional right,” Psaki told reporters.
Biden’s policy positions on abortion have evolved over his time in public service. Biden is a Catholic and is opposed to abortion. As the court ruled, he joined Senate in 1973. RoeBiden voted in favor of a failed constitutional amendment that would have allowed the states to overturn the decision. In a Washingtonian magazine interview at the time, he said: “I don’t like the Supreme Court decision on abortion. It was too extreme. I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.”
In a 2007 book, Biden said he had arrived at a “middle-of-the-road position on abortion” and intended to stay there. Biden described the next year in detail Roe as “close to a consensus that can exist in a society as heterogeneous as ours.” As vice president during the Obama administration, he said the government does not have the “right to tell other people that women, they can’t control their own body.”
In the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, under fire from abortion-rights advocates who said his positions were no longer in line with his party’s base, Biden reversed long-held support for a congressional ban on using federal dollars to pay for abortion care known as the Hyde Amendment, which complicates access for individuals who use the government’s Medicaid health insurance program, often people who are low-income or living with disabilities. In the first White House briefing of Biden’s administration, when Psaki was asked about the Mexico City Policy, also known as the global gag rule, which requires foreign organizations to certify they will not promote abortion as a condition for receiving U.S. aid for reproductive health care, she responded that he is “a devout Catholic.” Psaki continued: “He started his day attending church with his family this morning. But I don’t have anything more for you on that.”
Biden continued to drop the Hyde AmendmentFrom his budget proposal. He also volunteered to help with the budget proposal during his first weeks in office. rescinded the Mexico City Policy. His administration assumed office in October. reversedA Trump-era regulation barred health care providersFederal funds for family planning under Title X are not allowed to mention abortion care to patients.
As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops weighed releasing a document that said politicians like Biden who support abortion access should be denied communion, Biden met with Pope Francis, whom he said called him a “good Catholic.” The bishops ultimately stopped shortBiden or any other specific public officials may be named.
Biden has shown a personal discomfort with discussing abortion in stark terms, preferring descriptions such as “women’s access to health care” or “women’s access to constitutional rights,” “Roe” or “reproductive care.” It was 224 days into his administration before he used the word “abortion” in written statements related to a restrictive six-week abortion ban in Texas known as Senate Bill 8, according to a countBracey Sherman kept the record. Biden has never spoken the word in an oral comment, according to Sherman.
“Can you imagine if someone were talking about the full-on assault on voting rights but never used the word vote? How do you talk about something and refuse to use the word that it is?” Bracey Sherman asked.
Activists like Bracey Sherman worry that Biden’s reticence on abortion rights undermines efforts to reduce the stigma for people who have had abortions. It could also frustrate the Democratic Party’s efforts to make the 2022 midterm elections a referendumOn Republican efforts to pass restrictive abortion legislation.
The White House declined to comment on Biden’s next steps or personal thoughts about abortion.
Twenty-one states are “certain” to ban abortion if Roe is overturned because they have laws or state constitutional amendments already in place, and five more are “likely” given their political control and history introducing restrictive abortion laws, according toThe Guttmacher Institute. States like Arizona, Georgia, Ohio and Mississippi that will have competitive U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races next year either banned abortions before Roewas decided or had six-week bans on books that were blocked by courts. These were the places where Democratic candidates were more direct. Dobbs: Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, a Democratic candidate in the Ohio governor’s race, appeared at a rally after the argumentsTalk to an abortion provider. Arizona Senator Mark Kelly tweeted his opposition of the Mississippi law. Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock reiterated that he has “always been a pro-choice pastor.”
Recent polling in key states by the Democratic-aligned Planned Parenthood Action Fund, EMILY’s List and American Bridge 21st Century, which all support abortion rights, showed that the Texas law in particular is unpopular with potential Democratic and politically ambivalent voters. It also saw a significant increase in support. Roe — from 58 percent to 87 percent — after its meaning was described to voters, suggesting using “Roe” as a stand-in for “abortion” is not the clearest electoral message.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund declined comments for this story. Jenny Lawson, director of national campaigns, however, was available. told The 19th when poll numbers were released that the biggest takeaway “is that elected officials should be unapologetic about protecting and championing abortion access.”
Destiny Lopez, the co-president of the abortion-rights group All* Above All, said regarding Biden that she has “seen progress, particularly on the policy side, and there is hopefully more to come on the bully pulpit side.”
“I want to hear more from the president beyond euphemisms, he’s going to have a couple good opportunities coming up with the State of the Union, and the Roe anniversary, to show he supports people who have abortions in this country, and to lead the party in the right direction on this and embolden Congress and state Democratic leaders,” Lopez said.
Biden mentioned “protecting women’s health” in his first joint address to Congress in April but not abortion rights specifically. A joint statementHarris on the RoeAn anniversary in January didn’t use the word “abortion”
Gretchen Borchelt, the vice president of reproductive rights and health at the National Women’s Law Center, lauded the Biden administration’s response to SB 8 as “forceful and compelling” and said the Justice Department attorney who argued against Mississippi’s law last week was “strong, powerful and calm.” What she wants now is a roadmap of the Biden administration’s “whole-of-government response,” she said.
“What I really want to see and hear from them is their plan beyond this immediate crisis. What vision does the government have for ensuring abortion access is guaranteed? How will they use all the government levers to ensure that it happens? Roe falls, people can get the abortions they need?” she said.