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Biden defends abortion rights after Supreme Court draft on Roe v. Wade

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a memorial service for former Vice President Walter Mondale in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., May 1, 2022. Kevin Lamarque | ReutersPresident Joe Biden on Tuesday reacted to a leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion that would reverse the Roe v. Wade decision by calling on elected officials around the United States to protect women’s right to abortion.”I believe that a woman’s right to choose is fundamental, Roe has been the law of the land for almost fifty years, and basic fairness and the stability of our law demand that it not be overturned,” Biden said in a statement.Biden also called for the election of “more pro-choice Senators and a pro-choice majority in the House” this fall to pass federal legislation that would ensure the right to abortion.The Democratic president’s statement came a day after a bombshell report by Politico about a draft of an opinion written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito on a case involving Mississippi’s restrictive new abortion law, which has been blocked by lower federal courts.The leaked draft indicates that a majority of the Supreme Court has voted to overturn the nearly 50-year-old Roe v. Wade ruling, along with another decision that affirmed there is a constitutional right to abortion. If the substance of the opinion becomes the final ruling by the court, individual states could totally ban abortion, or much more severely limit that procedure currently allowed.”We do not know whether this draft is genuine, or whether it reflects the final decision of the Court,” Biden said in the statement.”With that critical caveat, I want to be clear on three points about the cases before the Supreme Court. First, my administration argued strongly before the Court in defense of Roe v. Wade. We said that Roe is based on ‘a long line of precedent recognizing ‘the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty’… against government interference with intensely personal decisions.’ “”Second, shortly after the enactment of Texas law SB 8 and other laws restricting women’s reproductive rights, I directed my Gender Policy Council and White House Counsel’s Office to prepare options for an Administration response to the continued attack on abortion and reproductive rights, under a variety of possible outcomes in the cases pending before the Supreme Court,” Biden said.”We will be ready when any ruling is issued.”Biden also said that if the Supreme Court overturns Roe “it will fall on our nation’s elected officials at all levels of government to protect a woman’s right to choose.””And it will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November. At the federal level, we will need more pro-choice Senators and a pro-choice majority in the House to adopt legislation that codifies Roe, which I will work to pass and sign into law,” he said.Biden’s statement, notably, did not say he supports ending the Senate’s 60-vote threshold, known as the filibuster rule, in order to pass legislation to protect abortion rights with just the 50 votes from 48 Democratic senators and the two independent senators who caucus with them.Biden has been under intense pressure to back a move to “blow up the filibuster” as it’s known in Washington, ever since it became clear that a challenge to Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban would be decided by the Supreme Court, and that the protections guaranteed by Roe would likely be either gutted or struck down completely.Even if Biden were to agree to back a change to the filibuster rule so that the Senate could pass a bill enshrining abortion protections into law with just a simple majority, it is far from certain he would get even the 50 Senate votes he would need to do so.With the Senate split evenly between Republicans and Democrats and independents, all 50 senators who caucus with the Democrats would need to back filibuster reform and an abortion protection bill.This spring, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin voted against proceeding on a bill called the Women’s Health Protection Act, which was seen as a trial balloon for how an abortion protection bill would fare among Democrats.

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