During a speech at a Democratic National Committee event in Washington, the president said if Democrats hold both the House and add seats to their Senate majority, he would make a bill to codify abortion rights his first priority. He said if it passes, he would aim to sign it into law by the 50th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in January.
“If you care about the right to choose then you got to vote. That’s why these midterm elections are so critical—elect more Democratic senators to the United States Senate and more Democrats to keep control of the House of Representatives,” the president said.
The president said women across the country lost a “fundamental right” when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, noting that over a dozen states have passed abortion bans in the months since the high court’s decision.
The president then warned that congressional Republicans are “doubling down on their extreme positions,” citing House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s remarks saying the GOP will seek a nationwide abortion ban if the party takes control of the Congress, and a bill from South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham to ban abortion nationwide after the 15th week of pregnancy.
“If Republicans get their way with a national ban, it won’t matter where you live in America,” Biden said. “So let me be very clear: if such a bill were to pass in the next several years, I’ll veto it.”
The president, who has largely focused on economic issues at recent public events, turned his attention to abortion rights three weeks before the midterm elections, which could see Republicans retake control of Congress.
Any bills to either enshrine or gut abortion rights would be difficult to pass in a closely divided Senate, where 60 votes are needed to overcome filibusters and the issue remains heavily partisan.
Democrats across the country have campaigned heavily on abortion rights, vowing to reverse restrictions pushed by Republicans and expand access to reproductive health services. Republicans, meanwhile, have criticized the president and Democrats over high inflation rates and crime nationwide.
During a briefing on Monday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre noted that the president discussed the efforts of what she called “extreme Republicans” to restrict abortion access during his visit to Western states last week, including the 15-week abortion ban bill from Graham and an effort to enforce a Civil War-era law implementing a near-total abortion ban in Arizona.
Jean-Pierre called Republican-led efforts to restrict abortion access since the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade in June “disturbing” and “very dangerous.”
“It’s backwards, again, it’s dangerous and it’s severe — in stark contrast to the president and the commitment that he has to leave these decisions between a woman and her doctor,” Jean-Pierre said. “And that’s what you’re going to hear from him tomorrow.”
In a meeting at the White House this month marking 100 days since the overturning of Roe, Biden said he will not “sit by and let Republicans throughout the country enact extreme policies” related to reproductive health care.
“Folks, what century are we in? What are we doing? I respect everyone’s view on this, personal decisions they make, but my Lord, we’re talking about contraception here,” Biden said during the second meeting of the administration’s Task Force on Reproductive Health Care Access. “It shouldn’t be that controversial, but this is what it looks like when you start to take away the right of privacy.”
The president’s remarks at the task force meeting follow a series of limited executive actions in recent months that aim to ensure some access to abortion care and contraceptives in the wake of the overturning of Roe.
Biden’s move comes after the current Congress made several unsuccessful attempts to codify Roe over the last two years. Although the Democratic-led House passed the Women’s Health Protection Act, the legislation has not advanced in the Senate, where it was blocked by Republican senators and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia. While narrower, bipartisan legislation has the backing of moderate Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, it does not have enough support in the chamber to pass.
Ali Vitali contributed.