WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden said Friday he would try to preserve access to abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and he called on Americans to elect more Democrats who would protect the rights upset by the court ruling. “It’s not over,” he said.
Watch Biden’s remarks in the player above.
“Let’s be very clear, the health and lives of women across this country are now at risk,” he said from the White House on what he called “a sad day for the court and the country.” .
Biden added that “the court did what it had never done before – expressly removing a constitutional right that is so fundamental to so many Americans.”
Republicans and conservative leaders celebrated the culmination of a decades-long campaign to reverse national legalization of abortion that began with Roe v. Wade in 1973.
“Millions of Americans have spent half a century praying, marching and working for today’s historic victories for the rule of law and for innocent life,” the minority leader said at the Senate, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., An architect of efforts to tilt the Supreme Court right.
Although Biden has previously expressed mixed feelings about abortion, he delivered a forceful defense on Friday. Noting that Republican-controlled states now had a clear path to outlawing abortion even in cases of incest or rape, he said “it amazes me.”
And he warned that other legal precedents guaranteeing same-sex marriage and access to birth control could also be at risk.
“It’s an extreme and dangerous path that this court is taking us down,” he said.
The annulment of Roe v. Wade wasn’t unexpected — a draft of the decision leaked nearly two months ago — but it still resonated throughout Washington in what has suddenly become a new era in the nation’s battle against abortion. .
LOOK: Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. What happens now?
The White House and Justice Department said they would look for ways to soften the decision’s impact, and Biden said his administration would try to ensure abortion drugs are available as widely as possible. and that women are not prevented from crossing state borders. terminate pregnancies.
However, no executive action was announced on Friday and Biden admitted his options were limited.
Protesters gathered at the Supreme Court, where a crowd of abortion-rights supporters quickly swelled into the hundreds. One of them chanted in a megaphone “legal abortion on demand” and “this decision must not be maintained”. Some have shouted “the Supreme Court is illegitimate”.
“This is a painful day for those of us who support women’s rights,” said Laura Free, an Ithaca, New York, resident and women’s rights historian who came to Washington to do research. . When she heard of the decision, she said, “I had to come here.”
A competing faction demonstrated in favor of the decision, holding signs saying “the future is anti-abortion” and “dismember Roe”.
Garrett Bess of Heritage Action for America, a lobbying arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, said his organization would work in states to continue efforts to limit abortion.
“It took a long time to come,” he said.
Biden and other Democrats hope to outrage the court’s decision to rally voters in November’s midterm elections. Although national legislation guaranteeing access to abortion seems out of reach, more Democratic victories at the state level could limit Republican efforts to ban the practice.
“Congress must act, and with your vote, you can act,” Biden said. “You can have the last word.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said the court’s decision “is outrageous and heartbreaking” and fulfills “the Republican Party’s dark and extreme goal of denying women the right to make their own decisions in reproductive health”.
Many Republican-controlled states are on the verge of severely restricting abortion, or even outright banning it.
In a statement, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department “will work tirelessly to protect and advance reproductive freedom.” He said that in addition to protecting providers and those seeking abortions in states where it remains legal, “we stand ready to work with other branches of the federal government that seek to use their legal authorities to protect and preserve access to reproductive care”.
He also noted that the Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of mifepristone, a drug used to terminate pregnancies.
“States cannot ban mifepristone because of disagreement with the FDA’s expert judgment on its safety and efficacy,” Garland said.
Lawrence Gostin, who directs the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health at Georgetown Law, said ahead of Friday’s decision that he expected the Biden administration to ‘chop around the edges and do nothing’. really deep”.
Gostin said he has discussed a variety of options with administration officials, but thinks they are “timid” given the potential for legal challenges that could lead to more roadblocks from the side. of a conservative-dominated Supreme Court.
SURVEY: Majority of Americans don’t want Roe overthrown
Some of Gostin’s suggestions included that Medicaid cover travel costs across state lines to terminate pregnancies, as well as expanding access to abortion drugs that can be delivered by mail.
The Reverend John Dorhauer, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, drove from Cleveland to Washington to attend a meeting earlier this month. Another virtual meeting took place this week, with Vice President Kamala Harris.
“It was pretty impressive to see the commitment from the White House and the vice president’s office to bringing together advocates from across the country,” Dorhauer said.
However, there are also concerns that the administration was not ready.
Dr. Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of St. Louis and Southwestern Missouri, attended a recent virtual meeting with abortion providers and said she expects ” a real health crisis.
“I think we should have been preparing for a lot longer than we have been,” McNicholas said. “Do I think they recognize that it’s a problem? Yes. Do I think they are prepared right now? Nope.”
Associated Press writers Will Weissert, Mike Balsamo, Matthew Daly, Lisa Mascaro and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.