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Biden decries Supreme Court abortion decision as a ‘tragic error’

President Biden said Friday that “the health and life of women in this nation are now at risk” after the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. But he vowed: the fight “is not over.”

President Biden on Friday blasted the Supreme Court ruling that overturned the right to abortion as a “tragic error” and called on voters to elect lawmakers who support that right.

“Make no mistake, this decision is a culmination of a deliberate effort over decades to upset the balance of our law,” he said at the White House. “It’s a realization of an extreme ideology and a tragic error of the Supreme Court.”

The high court voted along ideological lines 6 to 3 to uphold Mississippi’s abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy. But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. did not join the conservative majority to overturn Roe in a 5-4 vote, saying such action went too far.

The opinion, written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., largely mirrored a draft he wrote that was leaked and published by Politico in May.

The White House has been preparing for the ruling since the draft was published, weighing potential executive actions the president could take to protect reproductive rights as conservative-led states move to restrict or ban abortion access.

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Democrats have called on Biden to issue orders that could remove restrictions to abortion-related medications or challenge state laws that criminalize out-of-state travel to seek the termination of a pregnancy. Administration officials, however, have warned that any such action would be fairly limited.

Biden said “no executive action from the president” could restore Roe’s protections. Though Congress appears to lack the votes to enshrine such protections in federal law, Biden urged those who support abortion access to vote for candidates who share those views in the November midterm elections.

“This fall, Roe is on the ballot. Personal freedom is on the ballot,” Biden said.

“You can act,” he added, urging Americans to vote. “You can have the final word. This is not over.”

Biden pointed out that former President Trump’s victory in 2016 set the stage for Friday’s ruling.

Trump ultimately won confirmation for three justices — Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — who all voted to overturn Roe. Those justices played a key role in upending “the scales of justice and [eliminating] a fundamental right for women in this country,” Biden said.

The president excoriated the decision as “extreme” and said it underscored “how far removed they are from the majority of other countries” and how most Americans feel about abortion.

Just over 60% of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances, compared with 37% who say it should be illegal in all or most circumstances, according to the most recent survey by the Pew Research Center.

Since the leak of Alito’s draft opinion, the president has said the Supreme Court’s ruling could ultimately threaten other rights, including access to birth control and of same-sex couples to marry.

Trump, meanwhile, said the ruling and other recent court decisions “were only made possible because I delivered everything as promised.”

Democrats are hoping the Supreme Court’s decision can galvanize their voters and boost the party’s political prospects ahead of the November midterms. Democrats are battling midterm election history, gas prices, inflation and a president with a low approval rating.

Political analysts say Republicans are likely to take control of at least one chamber of Congress.

The places where the decision will be most acutely felt, however, are red states, where Republicans are in power and face little risk of being unseated by Democrats who support abortion rights.

The ruling means some state laws banning abortion will take immediate effect — in Kentucky, Louisiana and South Dakota, among others — and is certain to pave the way for other red states to enact similar bans.

The decision will also put pressure on President Biden to act to protect abortion rights.

That will probably lead women living in states with bans or severe restrictions to seek abortions in states where such procedures are permitted.

The president echoed Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland, who earlier Friday issued a statement vowing to protect women who must travel to get an abortion.

“If any state or local official, high or low, tries to interfere with a woman exercising her basic right to travel, I will do everything in my power to fight that deeply un-American attack,” Biden said.

The president added that his administration would safeguard medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including mifepristone, a drug used to end pregnancies and treat miscarriages.

Though some states have moved to ban or severely restrict access to the drug, Garland said in a statement the FDA regulation means “states may not ban mifepristone based on disagreement with the FDA’s expert judgment about its safety and efficacy.”

Vice President Kamala Harris, who has become one of the White House’s most prominent voices in the battle over reproductive rights, has met with state attorneys general, faith leaders, advocates and other stakeholders about steps the administration can take in the months ahead.

In a speech in Illinois, the vice president called the high court’s decision a “healthcare crisis.”

“Millions of women in America will go to bed tonight without access to the healthcare and reproductive care that they had this morning,” Harris said. “This is the first time in the history of our nation that a constitutional right has been taken from the people of America.”

Times staff writer Jennifer Haberkorn contributed to this report.


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