WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) – President Joe Biden said the “horror” unleashed by the Supreme Court’s decision to eliminate the nationwide right to abortion was already being felt across the country in his sharpest attack yet on the two-week-old ruling.
Faced with growing demands from liberal Democrats that the White House take more robust action following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe versus Wade, Biden said on Friday (July 8) that much of the country was experiencing “a giant step backwards” as he signed an executive order intended to preserve access to the procedure.
“This isn’t some imagined horror. It’s already happening,” he said at the White House, noting that bans have already taken effect in 13 states.
He cited a report that a 10-year-old rape victim was forced to travel from Ohio to Indiana for an abortion. Bloomberg News has not verified the report.
“Imagine being that little girl,” Biden said.
His executive order will codify efforts taken by health officials following the high court’s ruling intended to provide resources for women seeking abortions.
But it won’t restore the availability of abortion in states that have largely outlawed the procedure in recent weeks, and the move is also unlikely to assuage progressives.
“I know it’s frustrating, and made a whole lot of people very angry,” Biden said. “But the truth is this – and it’s not just me saying it, it’s what the court said, when you read the decision – the court has made clear it will not protect the rights of women. Period. Period.”
‘Giant step backwards’
He urged women to respond by voting for candidates who support abortion rights in November’s midterm elections and beyond. About six in 10 Americans say they disapprove of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe versus Wade, according to a Monmouth University poll conducted late last month.
“My hope and strong belief that women will in fact turnout in record numbers to reclaim the rights that have taken from them by the court,” he said.
“What we’re witnessing is a giant step backwards in much of our country.”
The President pledged to veto any federal legislation banning abortion and accused the Supreme Court of exercising “raw political power” in eliminating the constitutional right to the procedure.
“This was not a decision driven by the constitution,” he said. “The truth is today’s Supreme Court majority is playing fast and loose with the facts.”
Under his executive order, the Department of Health and Human Services is required to submit a report to the president within the next month about efforts to ensure the availability of abortion pills, contraception, and emergency medical care for pregnant women.
The department also must detail its public education efforts on abortion access and consider ways to protect patient information related to reproductive health care from law enforcement.
The Justice Department and White House lawyers also will organise a group of attorneys to offer free legal services to people seeking abortions, including those who want to travel outside the states where they live, according to a White House statement.
And the administration is creating an inter-agency task force to coordinate abortion rights efforts between the White House and Cabinet agencies.
But the order stops short of more significant actions that have been suggested by more than two dozen Democratic senators and governors, including New York’s Kathy Hochul, who have argued that the ruling was drastic enough to ask the White House to consider novel uses of executive authority.
The administration has so far sidestepped calls to allow abortions on federal property to circumvent state laws, allow Veterans Affairs facilities to provide abortions, or declare a public health emergency related to the ruling, citing various legal and practical concerns.
The President and other White House officials have repeatedly said they see the restoration of national abortion access as only possible with congressional action.
Separately, Vice-President Kamala Harris plans to meet later on Friday with state lawmakers from Indiana, Florida, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Montana. Each state has a Republican-controlled legislature and is expected to attempt to pass tougher abortion restrictions in the coming weeks.
Harris will “convey the administration’s commitment to protecting access to reproductive health care, and she will encourage the legislators to continue defending reproductive rights and freedoms at the state level,” the White House said in a statement.