President Biden on Friday denounced new abortion restrictions imposed in Republican-led states in the year since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade and warned that the right to privacy, which has been the foundation of other rights such as same-sex marriage and access to birth control, could be at risk if Democrats do not win next year’s election.
Marking the Saturday anniversary of the Women’s Health Organization’s decision Dobbs v. Jackson that removed the national right to abortion for women, Biden denounced its “devastating effects,” told an abortion rights rally that women had been deprived of basic health care and noted that some leading Republicans, not happy with leaving the matter in the hands of the states as they had long advocated, they are now seeking a national ban on the procedure.
“They will not stop here,” said Biden, who was joined at the rally by his wife, Jill Biden, as well as Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff. “Make no mistake, this election is about freedom on the ballot.”
The president garnered endorsements from the nation’s leading abortion rights groups, Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice America. While the endorsement came as no surprise, the early timing underscored the role Democrats believe abortion rights will play in next year’s election.
Polls show that support for legalizing abortion has risen since the Dobbs decision. Democrats argue that it helped them stave off a Republican wave during last year’s midterm elections — “you showed up and beat them up,” as Biden put it — and could be instrumental in retaining the White House and winning back the House. . next year. Republicans are at odds with one another over how much to emphasize the issue, with some fearing it will only hurt them in a general election. But some progressive activists have privately expressed frustration that Biden hasn’t made it a public priority until now.
Abortion has long been an uncomfortable topic for Biden, who has cited his Catholic faith as his views have changed over the years. As a young senator, he declared that the Supreme Court had gone “too far” in the Roe decision and later voted in favor of a constitutional amendment that allowed individual states to vacate the ruling before reversing it. He supported the so-called Hyde amendment that bans the use of federal funding for abortion, including through Medicaid, until the 2020 campaign, when he changed his mind under pressure from liberals in his party.
By contrast, Ms. Harris has unabashedly joined the battle for abortion rights since Roe was reversed, becoming the administration’s most passionate and effective voice on the issue. At Friday’s event, Laphonza Butler, president of Emily’s List, praised Biden’s team as “the most pro-choice administration we’ve ever seen,” but saved her gushing words for Harris.
Friday’s rally, organized with the Democratic National Committee, was part of a series of messages from Biden’s team around the anniversary of the Dobbs ruling. Earlier this week, Dr. Biden organized a session with women of states that have imposed limits on abortion to highlight the consequences even for those who do not seek to terminate a pregnancy. On Saturday, Ms. Harris will give a speech on abortion rights in Charlotte, NC
Biden’s allies on Capitol Hill on Friday also called attention to the issue. House Democrats, led by Rep. Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts, have introduced legislation to require insurance coverage to include abortion care, protect patients and providers from criminal charges, and affirm the legal right to to care for abortion and spontaneous abortion. The bill has no chance of passing the Republican-controlled House, but was meant as a signal to supporters.
As he has done for the past year, Biden sought to expand the debate to other privacy concerns, the ideological terrain in which he feels most comfortable, by casting Republicans as extremists beyond the abortion issue. The White House announced Friday that in its third executive action in response to the Dobbs decision, it directed federal agencies to find ways to ensure and expand access to birth control.
“The idea that I had to do that, I mean, no, really, think about it, think about it,” he told his followers. “I know I’m 198, but other than joking, think about it. I never, ever thought that he would be signing an executive order protecting the right to contraceptives.”
He boasted that he had done more to put women in positions of power than any of his predecessors. In addition to making Ms. Harris the first woman to serve as vice president, she noted that she is the first president to have a majority-female cabinet, noted her appointment of Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first black woman on the Supreme Court, and said she had installed more black women on federal appeals courts than all previous presidents combined.
“Look, we made a lot of progress,” Biden said. “We cannot allow them to take us backwards.”