WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) – Calling the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade a “tragic error”, President Joe Biden on Friday (June 24) tried to galvanise voters before the midterm elections and called on Americans to “make their voices heard”.
Speaking from the White House, Mr Biden said the Justice Department would defend any woman who travels to a different state to have an abortion, and said the Department of Health and Human Services would make sure abortion medications were available.
But to truly protect a “constitutional right that is so fundamental”, Mr Biden said, voters must elect candidates who will codify Roe v. Wade into federal law.
“This decision must not be the final word,” Mr Biden said. “My administration will use all of its appropriate lawful powers. Congress must act. And your vote? You can have the final word. This is not over.”
The president’s speech, just hours after the Supreme Court overturned the nearly 50-year-old decision, signalled that Mr Biden’s party will likely make abortion a central issue in the midterms in an attempt to energise voters at a time when Democrats are expected to face losses.
With nearly a dozen senior aides, all women, crowded to the right of his lectern, Mr Biden said the decision “will have real and immediate consequences”, and that “the health and life of women in this nation are now at risk”.
The forceful defence of reproductive rights was striking from a president who has not always been comfortable speaking about abortion.
Mr Biden, a practising Catholic, has rarely been the full-throated backer of abortion rights that activists have sought, evolving from an outright critic of Roe early in his career to a largely quiet supporter.
In the weeks since a draft opinion of the overturning of Roe leaked, Mr Biden has cast the possibility of the Supreme Court’s decision as one that would threaten not just abortion rights but also the right to privacy more broadly.
On Friday, Mr Biden warned that the Supreme Court decision could have implications for other rights that Americans have come to expect – citing Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion that said the same rationale the Supreme Court used to eliminate the right to abortion should be used to reconsider decisions about contraception and same-sex marriage.
Vice-President Kamala Harris, who was in Illinois to speak about maternal health but recast her address to focus on Roe, said the ruling would affect “decisions about the right to start a family”, including the right to use contraception.
“Today’s decision on that theory, then, calls into question other rights that we thought were settled”, including interracial and same-sex marriage.