Biden says federal government will protect women seeking abortions across state lines
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is meeting with several Democratic governors Friday afternoon to discuss what the administration and states can do to ensure women have access to abortion in America following the Supreme Court’s ruling last week that overturned Roe v. Wade.
The president announced the meeting on Thursday while at a NATO summit in Madrid, where he told reporters that he and the governors will drum up ideas on how to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision in June to reverse the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that established a constitutional right to an abortion.
A White House official confirmed the list of attendees for the 1 p.m. meeting, which includes:
Gov. Kathy Hochul of New YorkGov. Roy Cooper of North CarolinaGov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New MexicoGov. Ned Lamont of ConnecticutGov. Jared Polis of ColoradoGov. J.B. Pritzker of IllinoisGov. Jay Inslee of WashingtonGov. Kate Brown of OregonGov. Gavin Newsom of CaliforniaGov. Daniel McKee of Rhode Island
The list of Democratic governors, who represent about one-third of the nation’s women, reflects the state-by-state divide on abortion access in the U.S. following the Supreme Court’s reversal.
At least 13 states have laws on the books that immediately banned abortion or will do so soon. Abortion bans in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah and Alabama took effect as soon as Roe was overturned, but judges in Louisiana, Kentucky and Utah have blocked those laws from immediately taking effect.
Blue states, like New York and California, will continue to allow the termination of pregnancy.
Echoing the belief held by many Democrats, Biden said Thursday the reversal “is a serious, serious problem the Supreme Court has thrust upon the United States.”
“I’m going to do everything in my power I legally can do in terms of protecting abortion, as well as pushing Congress and the public,” he said.
But the implications of the high court’s recent ruling are still being sorted on the state level, leaving federal agencies scrambling to navigate an evolving patchwork of laws and jurisdictions.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra acknowledged the complexity of the situation on Tuesday.
Becerra told reporters that federal law requires U.S. health agencies to grant abortion medication in exceptional circumstances, such as when the life of the woman is at risk or in cases of sexual assault.
But he declined to go into further detail on just how aggressive the federal government will be in fighting states’ abortion restrictions outside of those extreme cases, saying, “We are going to stay within the confines of the law.”
Biden said Thursday that he would support a Democrat-led effort to suspend a procedural rule in the Senate that would make it easier for lawmakers to codify the Roe v. Wade decision into federal law
Democrats in the evenly divided chamber have long sought to pass legislation that would make the Roe decision federal law. While most bills require a simple majority to pass, Republicans have been able to block any attempts to codify Roe by invoking a filibuster, a procedural rule that requires 60 votes in the 50-50 split chamber to close debate and move on to a vote.
Suspending that rule, considered a political and legislative “nuclear option,” is risky for Democrats since Republicans could do the same if the GOP won back the Senate in the November midterm elections.
Biden’s support for suspension may not be enough anyway. While the filibuster could be changed with a simple majority vote, not all Senate Democrats are behind the idea of tossing out a way to check future Republican majorities.
Moderate Democrats Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, for example, have said they are against changes to the filibuster rules.