Biden attacks GOP abortion bans, vows to restore Roe during State of the Union

FILE - President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, March 7, 2024, in Washington. Seated at left is Vice President Kamala Harris and at right is House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La. Biden made abortion and reproductive rights a central theme of his State of the Union speech, but he never mentioned the word "abortion." Pushback over how he addressed the issue is the latest example of Biden's fraught history with the topic. (Shawn Thew/Pool via AP, File)

By Isabel Soisson

March 12, 2024

Amid a continued right-wing assault on abortion, contraception, and fertility care, President Joe Biden used his annual State of the Union address last Thursday to criticize Republican abortion bans and call for the restoration of Roe v. Wade.

Early on in his speech, Biden introduced Kate Cox, a Texas woman who was forced to flee the state for emergency abortion care after finding out her fetus had a fatal condition. Cox, who was denied an abortion under Texas’ extremely strict abortion ban, was First Lady Jill Biden’s State of the Union guest.

“Because Texas law banned her ability to act, Kate and her husband had to leave the state to get what she needed,” Biden said. “There are state laws banning the freedom to choose, criminalizing doctors, forcing survivors of rape and incest to leave their states to get the treatment they need.”

Fourteen states have banned abortion in virtually all circumstances since the US Supreme Court struck down Roe in 2022, while seven others have imposed severe restrictions, such as six-week bans.

“Many of you in this chamber and my predecessor are promising to pass a national ban on reproductive freedom,” Biden continued. “My God, what freedoms will you take away next?

Former President Donald Trump has privately suggested he would back a 16-week nationwide abortion ban, the New York Times reported last month.

In contrast, Biden assured voters that he would fight to restore Roe in 2025.

“If you, the American people, send me a Congress that supports the right to choose, I promise you I will restore Roe v. Wade as the law of the land again,” he said.

Groups such as Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Reproductive Rights for All lauded the president for bringing reproductive rights to the forefront of his address.

“We are grateful to President Biden, Vice President Harris, and leaders across the administration, who understand the harm done to patients and providers because the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade,” Planned Parenthood Action Fund president and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson said in a statement. “Patients, providers, and communities need unwavering, vocal support, coupled with action from our leaders in the White House, through the halls of Congress, and on court benches throughout the country.”

The president has consistently advocated for a woman’s right to an abortion since taking office in 2021.

At Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ first joint campaign appearance of 2024, which came just one day after the 51st anniversary of the 1973 Roe decision, the president criticized the current state of reproductive rights in the United States.

“Today in America, women are being turned away from emergency rooms, forced to travel hundreds of miles to get basic health care,” Biden said in January. “Forced to go to court to plead for help for themselves and for their ability to have children in the future. The cruelty is astounding, and it’s a direct affront to a woman’s dignity to be told by extreme politicians and judges to wait to get sicker and sicker before anything can happen.”

The Biden administration has also defended the FDA’s approval of the abortion drug mifepristone, which along with misoprostol, is approved through 10 weeks of pregnancy and is used in more than half of abortions nationwide.

The US Supreme Court is set to hear a case this month that could threaten the availability of mifepristone.

A far-right conservative Christian group, the Alliance Defending Freedom, is seeking to revoke the FDA’s 2000 approval of mifepristone, or at minimum, severely restrict access to it. If the court opts to restrict or ban access to the medication, it would dramatically restrict access to abortion, even in states where it remains legal.

In order to help women while they wait to hear the results of that decision, the Biden administration has also supported the FDA in allowing pharmacies to get certified to dispense the drug.

Biden’s likely opponent in November, Donald Trump, has meanwhile repeatedly boasted about his role in appointing three of the Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe.

“For 54 years they were trying to get Roe v. Wade terminated, and I did it. And I’m proud to have done it,” Trump said in January. “We did something that was a miracle.”

“The person most responsible for taking away this freedom in America is Donald Trump,” Biden said in January. “Listen to what he says–Trump says he’s proud that he overturned Roe v. Wade…he says there has to be punishment for women exercising their reproductive freedom. He describes the Dobbs decision as a miracle, but for American women it’s a nightmare.”

A second Trump term could lead to the further loss of reproductive freedom.

Conservative activists have crafted Project 2025, an expansive blueprint that lays out in detail how they intend to leverage virtually every arm, tool, and agency of the federal government to attack abortion access—including by banning and criminalizing access to abortion medication.

While many reproductive rights advocates praised Biden’s speech, some weren’t thrilled with the fact that the president didn’t use the word “abortion” once during his address.

“It was wonderful to see Kate Cox and her story be uplifted and, you know, condemn that she had to leave her state to get an abortion,” Kellie Copeland, executive director of Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, told NBC News. “But then to not say the word? I think it implies that it’s taboo, and it’s not. It was the health care that she needed. And it’s the health care that many women, trans and nonbinary people have every right to.”

Biden administration officials have pushed back on criticisms that he intentionally avoided using the word “abortion,” telling the Associated Press and NBC News that it’s not uncommon for the president to deviate from prepared remarks, which did include one use of the word.

Biden campaign officials also made clear that at the end of the day, they believe the stark contrast in positions on the issue between Biden and Trump will be the decisive factor come November.

Trump “has repeatedly used disgusting and derogatory language when referring to women, and he will institute a national abortion ban,” Lauren Hitt, spokesperson for the Biden campaign, told the AP. “The choice in this election is incredibly clear.”

Author

  • Isabel Soisson

    Isabel Soisson is a multimedia journalist who has worked at WPMT FOX43 TV in Harrisburg, along with serving various roles at CNBC, NBC News, Philadelphia Magazine, and Philadelphia Style Magazine.

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