WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Friday condemned the Supreme Court’s “extreme” majority that ended the constitutional right to abortion and made an impassioned appeal to Americans upset by the November decision to “vote, vote, vote.” Under increasing pressure from fellow Democrats to be more forceful in response to the decision, he signed an executive order to try to protect access to the procedure.
The actions Biden described are aimed at avoiding some potential penalties that women seeking abortion may face after the ruling, but his order cannot restore access to abortion in more than a dozen states where strict limits or outright bans have taken effect. About a dozen other states are expected to impose additional restrictions.
Biden acknowledged the limitations faced by his office, saying he would require an act of Congress to restore national access to the way it was before the June 24 decision.
“The quickest way to restore Roe is to pass a national law,” Biden said. “The challenge is to go out and vote. For God’s sake, there’s an election in November!”
Biden’s suit formalized instructions to the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to crack down on efforts to limit women’s ability to access federally approved abortion medications or travel across state borders to access clinical abortion services. He was joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco in the Roosevelt Room as he signed the order.
Its executive order also directs agencies to work to educate medical providers and insurers about how and when they should share privileged patient information with authorities — an effort to protect women seeking or obtaining abortion services. He is also calling on the Federal Trade Commission to take steps to protect the privacy of those seeking reproductive care information online and to establish a task force to coordinate federal efforts to protect access to abortion.
Biden is also directing his team to hire volunteer attorneys to provide pro bono legal assistance to women and providers to help them deal with the state’s new restrictions.
The order comes as Biden faces criticism from some in his own party for failing to act more urgently to protect women’s access to abortion. The court’s decision in the case known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade.
Since the decision, Biden has emphasized that his ability to protect the right to abortion by executive action is limited without congressional action, and he has emphasized that Democrats do not have votes in the current Congress to do so.
“We need two additional pro-choice senators and a pro-choice house to code Roe,” he said. “Your vote can make this a reality.”
Biden for the first time last week announced his support for changing Senate rules to allow a measure to restore national access to abortion to pass by a simple majority, rather than the usual limit of 60 votes needed to end obstruction. However, at least two Democratic lawmakers have made it clear that they will not support changing Senate rules.
He predicted that women would turn up in “record numbers” in frustration with the court’s decision, and said he hoped that “millions and millions of men are fighting alongside them.”
On Friday, he repeated his strong criticism of the Supreme Court’s reasoning in overturning what had been a half-century-old constitutional right to abortion.
“Let’s be clear about something from the start, this was not a Constitution-driven decision,” Biden said. He accused most of the court of “playing fast and loose with the facts”.
He spoke movingly of a 10-year-old Ohio girl who was forced to travel out of state to terminate a pregnancy after being raped, noting that some states have instituted abortion bans that have no exceptions for rape or incest. .
“Should a 10-year-old be forced to give birth to a rapist’s child?” an incredulous Biden nearly screamed. “I can’t think of anything more extreme.”
Biden added that in November’s parliamentary elections, “the choice we face as a nation is between the mainstream or the extreme.”
Its instructions to the Justice Department and HHS have the agencies scrambling in court to protect women, but the order offers no assurances that the court system will take its side against possible lawsuits by states that have passed abortion bans.
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Mini Timmaraju called Biden’s order “an important first step in restoring the rights taken away from millions of Americans by the Supreme Court.”
But Lawrence Gostin, who directs the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health at Georgetown Law, described Biden’s plans as “unsatisfactory.”
“There’s nothing I’ve seen that would affect the lives of ordinary poor women living in red states,” he said.
Gostin encouraged Biden to take a more forceful approach to ensuring access to medical abortion across the country and said Medicaid should consider covering transportation to other states for abortion purposes.
Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, recently told the Associated Press that the agency was looking at whether Medicaid could cover travel for abortions, but acknowledged that “Medicaid abortion coverage is extremely limited.”
Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser condemned Biden’s order, saying, “President Biden has once again given in to the extreme abortion lobby, determined to put the full weight of the federal government on promoting abortion.”
Biden’s decision was the latest attempt to protect the data privacy of those contemplating or seeking abortion, as regulators and lawmakers weigh the consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision.
Privacy experts say women could be vulnerable if their personal data is used to monitor pregnancies and shared with police or sold to vigilantes. Online searches, location data, text messages and emails, and even apps that track menstruation can all be used to prosecute people seeking an abortion — or medical assistance for a miscarriage — as well as those assisting them. , experts say.
Privacy advocates are on the lookout for potential new moves by law enforcement agencies in affected states — responding to subpoenas, for example, on tech companies like Google, Apple, Bing, Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp, services like Uber and Lyft, and providers. of Internet services, including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Comcast. Local prosecutors can turn to sympathetic judges to obtain search warrants for user data.
Last month, four Democratic lawmakers asked the FTC to investigate Apple and Google for allegedly deceiving millions of cell phone users by allowing the collection and sale of their personal data to third parties.
Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani, Marcy Gordon, and Hillary Powell contributed to this report.