Sept. 3, 2021 -- President Joe Biden on Thursday said he has begun a wide-reaching federal effort to protect women’s right to an abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a restrictive Texas abortion law to go into effect.
He said he was starting a “whole-of-government effort” that will involve the White House counsel, the Justice Department, and the Department of Health and Human Services, according to a statement posted on the White House website.
The president said fast action was needed to find ways “to insulate women and providers from the impact of Texas’ bizarre scheme of outsourced enforcement to private parties.”
Biden was referring to the portion of the law that allows citizens to bring civil suits against anyone who helps a pregnant person seeking a banned abortion.
“This law is so extreme it does not even allow for exceptions in the case of rape or incest,” he said. “And it not only empowers complete strangers to inject themselves into the most private of decisions made by a woman -- it actually incentivizes them to do so with the prospect of $10,000 if they win their case.”
The Supreme Court voted 5-4 late Wednesday to deny a motion by Texas abortion providers to block the law from taking effect. The law, which took effect the same day, bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is usually around 6 weeks and often before most people know they are pregnant.
It’s one of the strictest abortion laws in the country since the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion nationwide.
Biden on Thursday criticized the Supreme Court for not issuing a stay to the Texas law, saying Texas women needing reproductive health care will suffer “while courts sift through procedural complexities.”
It’s not clear what specific actions the White House can take. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that Biden would push Congress to codify Roe v. Wade as law, CNN reported.
"That is a specific course of action that can be taken to help protect from these type of lawsuits in the future," she said.
But CNN noted that it’s unlikely Congress would take such action because Democrats hold narrow majorities over Republicans in both houses of Congress.