Facing mounting pressure from Democrats looking for direction in the fight to protect abortion rights following the death of Roe v. Wade, President Joe Biden on Friday morning signed an executive order to mitigate potential penalties levied against women who seek abortion services.
Prior to signing the order, Biden spoke in concrete terms about what is required to codify Roe now that the Supreme Court has struck it down. “We need 2 additional pro-choice senators and a pro-choice House to codify Roe as federal law,” he said while flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Your vote can make that a reality. I know it’s frustrating and it made a lot of people very angry. But the truth is this: When you read the decision, the court has made clear that it will not protect the rights of women. Period. Period.”
“We cannot allow an out-of-control Supreme Court, working in conjunction with extremist elements of the Republican Party to take away freedoms and our personal autonomy,” Biden added.
Biden: "We need 2 additional pro-choice senators & a pro-choice House to codify Roe as federal law. Your vote can make that a reality. I know it's frustrating & it made a lot of people very angry. But the truth is this… women of American can determine the outcome of this issue" pic.twitter.com/5im6eJWh72
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 8, 2022
There are currently 50 Democrats in the Senate, giving the party control of the chamber with Harris’ ability to cast tie-breaking votes. But Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are both opposed to the filibuster reform necessary to pass legislation codifying abortion rights. Biden had been reluctant to support such reform, but said last week he would support it in order to codify Roe.
The executive order Biden signed is expected to instruct the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to rebuff efforts to limit individuals ability to travel across state lines to receive abortion services, as well as limitations on access to federally approved medications used to perform abortions. The order also include guidelines for healthcare providers and insurance companies on how to handle requests from authorities for the privileged medical information of people who have sought abortion services.
Biden and his administration have faced intense scrutiny for their response to the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision to overturn Roe. The nation was well aware of the court’s intentions since a draft of the decision leaked in early November, but the White House seemed blindsided when it finally came down. CNN reported earlier this week that White House Counsel Dana Remus assured senior aides wouldn’t rule on abortion when it did, even though it was one of only a handful of days left in the court’s term when the decision could have been delivered. The imminence of the historic judicial ruling on an issue central to the Democrat Party was so out of sight and out of mind to the White House that the aide assigned to handle it was reportedly across the street getting coffee when the decision was delivered.
The president’s comments ahead of signing the order on Friday are his strongest display of support for reproductive rights since the decision came down. “The court and its allies are committed to moving America backwards with fewer rights, less autonomy, and politicians invading their most personal decisions,” he said in closing. “Remember the reasoning of the decision has an impact much beyond Roe, in the right to privacy generally. Marriage equality, contraception, and so much more is at risk.”