A Texas law has been passed that bans abortions in most cases. President Joe Biden used the word “Abortion” Wednesday, a term he had completely avoided during his tenure as president.
Biden’s absence of the word in public remarks and statements frustrates activists. They claim it is a sign that an issue fell off the priority list, even though women’s rights to abortion are under threat in many states in the Midwest and South.
On Wednesday night, the Supreme Court denied the request of Texas abortion providers to suspend the state law. It will therefore remain in effect for the time being. Patients who are unsure of their legal exposure have been turned away by state abortion providers.
Biden, in a statement Thursday morning, used the term again and harshly criticized the Texas law for an “unprecedented attack on a woman’s constitutional rights.”
Biden used stronger language than he had used a day before to call the law’s new enforcement structure, which allows private citizens civil suits against anyone who helps a pregnant woman seeking an abortion — a “bizarre plan” that could unleash “unconstitutional havoc.”
He wrote that “Strangers” will be empowered to inject themselves into women’s most private and personal health decisions.
Biden stated that he would launch a “whole of Government” response to the law. He asked the Department of Health and Human Services and Justice Department to “see what steps the Federal Government could take to ensure Texas women have legal and safe abortions.
Biden faces increased pressure to stand up for abortion rights as the Texas law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy takes effect. This is an issue that the President has changed his position on throughout his long career. He even reversed his position on a bill that allowed federal funds to be used for abortion.
Biden made two statements about the Texas law and vowed that he would find a way for women to choose an abortion. The avenues to do so are not clear, and the White House is still unsure of what actions may be possible.
When asked Wednesday by reporters about the options available to Biden, Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, stated that the President would push Congress for Roe v. Wade to be made law.
It is unlikely that Congress will enshrine a right-to-abort in law. This would require 60 votes to override a Republican filibuster in the Senate. Even if the House passes, it is uncertain given the narrow majority of Democrats.
Biden has been asked to support changes in filibuster rules to protect voting rights but has not yet supported getting rid of it altogether. After 20 weeks of Republican control, Democrats used the filibuster in 2018 to stop a law banning abortion. This is a reminder that changes to the rules can be detrimental to them down the line if they are reelected to the majority.
Biden took steps to change Trump’s restrictive abortion laws, including the “Mexico City Policy”, which bans the US from funding international abortion clinics. The Trump-era ban on certain federally funded health care providers being able to refer patients for abortions was also replaced by Biden’s directive to the Department of Health and Human Services. This is a long-demanded step by abortion-rights groups.
However, the issue is far from being a major agenda item in his administration. Biden was a senator and supported the Hyde Amendment, which banned federal funding for abortion.
Biden stated that he had changed his mind in 2019, while he was running for the Democratic presidential nomination. He also said that he didn’t apologize for his previous position. He said that he had reversed his position due to stricter abortion laws in many Republican-led states.
Biden, a Catholic, was also criticized by conservative US bishops who tried earlier this year to pass rules that would prohibit communion for public figures who support abortion rights.
Biden dismissed those efforts, calling it a private matter that he didn’t think would gain momentum.
The political environment for Biden and his party has been declining for several weeks. Coronavirus infections returning to the surface, rising inflation fears, and devastating images from Afghanistan have all lowered the President’s public image and brightened Republican prospects of regaining control in the 2022 midterm elections.