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Biden marks Roe v. Wade anniversary with commitment to protecting abortion rights

Even with public opinion against them, Republicans are continuing to push measures to restrict abortion.

By Oliver Willis - January 20, 2023
FILE - Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, second from right, watches as President Joe Biden signs an executive order on abortion access during an event in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Friday, July 8, 2022, in Washington. On Friday, Sept. 9, 2022, Becerra addressed a gathering of Planned Parenthood leaders from 24 states, in Sacramento, California. Also seen are From left, Vice President Kamala Harris, left, Health and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, right. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

President Joe Biden issued a proclamation on Friday recognizing Jan. 22 as the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision and affirmed his continued support for abortion rights. The landmark case was decided on Jan. 22, 1973.

“On what would have been the 50th anniversary of protections under Roe v. Wade, my Administration is resolute in its commitment to defending reproductive rights and continuing our Nation’s progress toward equality for all,” Biden said in the proclamation.

The June 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision by the conservative-led Supreme Court struck down the Roe v. Wade ruling, which affirmed the constitutional right to abortion. Biden said the court’s decision in Dobbs had “put the health and lives of women across this Nation at risk” and had “opened the door for new challenges to other fundamental freedoms, including access to contraception and the right to marry whom you love.”

Public opinion polls have shown support for abortion rights for decades. A July poll from the Pew Research Center showed that 62% of respondents think abortion should be legal in all or most situations, and 57% opposed the court’s decision to overturn Roe.

Biden also said he’ll use his executive power to support abortion rights until Congress codifies the right to an abortion. A bill that would have codified the right passed the House in May 2022 but was defeated in the Senate by Republicans and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

In July and August 2022, Biden signed two executive orders instructing federal agencies to protect legal access to abortion care. Provisions in Biden’s orders included protecting the continued availability of FDA-approved medication such as mifepristone and safeguarding the right of patients to travel out of state for medical care.

Separately, the Biden administration announced that Vice President Kamala Harris will visit Tallahassee, the capital of Florida, on Jan. 22 to make a speech in support of abortion rights.

Florida is among a number of Republican-led states that have acted to curtail abortion rights in recent years. The state’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is seen as a likely candidate for president in 2024, signed a law in April 2022 banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Other possible Republican presidential contenders have also weighed in against abortion rights.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has said he supports a 15-week ban, while South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem signed legislation restricting access to abortion pills and described her state’s total ban on abortion as a model that other states’ governors should adopt.

Republican state legislators across the country have continued to advance anti-abortion legislation, includingRepublican lawmakers in Kansas who are trying to give cities and counties the power to enact restrictions. A statewide referendum on restricting abortion failed in 2022.

At the federal level, congressional Republicans are working to pass anti-abortion bills. On Jan. 11, the Republican-led House passed a measure that would impose fines and possible prison time on doctors who attempt to perform or perform “an overt act that kills a child born alive.” Experts have said such scenarios are extremely rare and that existing laws already protect infants in those cases.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the bills were “doomed” in the Democratic-led Senate and noted in a Jan. 11 statement that “the MAGA Republican controlled House is putting on full display their truly extreme views on women’s health with legislation that does not have the support of the American people.”

The continued Republican push for abortion restrictions comes just months after the party underperformed in the midterm elections, earning far fewer seats in the House than had been projected and failing to take control of the Senate.

Polls conducted by NBC News on Election Day showed that abortion was one of the most important issues among voters, ahead of those such as crime and immigration that Republicans and conservative media had emphasized over the previous year.

Polling showed that abortion rights were the top issue for Democratic voters and for women and that 60% of voters polled described themselves as either “angry” or dissatisfied” with the Supreme Court’s decision against Roe.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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