Biden Undertakes to Safeguard Access to Abortion Pills, Travel to Other States, After US Supreme Court Removes Abortion Rights
Pro-abortion protests have erupted in the US in the aftermath of the court decision.

Women’s rights activists and political opponents reacted with fury to the US Supreme Court’s stunning reversal of the fundamental right to abortion established almost 50 years ago in the landmark 1973 ruling of Roe v. Wade.

US President Joe Biden called it a “tragic error,” saying this is the first time the US Supreme Court has removed “a constitution right that is so fundamental to so many Americans.” He vowed his administration would defend a woman’s right to travel across state lines to seek an abortion.

“Now with Roe gone, let’s be very clear, the health and life of women across this nation are now at risk,” he said. “Let me be very clear and unambiguous. The only way we can secure a woman’s right to choose that exists is for Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade as federal law. No executive action from the president can do that.”

Biden called on voters to elect more senators and representatives who support reproductive rights, and pointed out that the Supreme Court decision does not prevent women from crossing state lines to receive an abortion.

“My administration will defend that bedrock right,” he promised. “If any state or local official, high or low, tries to interfere with a woman’s exercising her basic right to travel, I will do everything in my power to fight that deeply un-American attack.”

Biden added his administration would also back the right of access to medication for medical abortions, which some anti-abortion states want to ban.

Trigger bans in 13 states

The Supreme Court decision triggered automatic abortion bans in 13 states that had such laws in place. This means that women living in Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming will no longer be able to get access to abortions. 

Some states like Mississippi make no exceptions for rape, incest or health considerations, and women and girls and doctors face jail sentences for induced abortions.

Another 13 states are also poised to curtail abortion rights, while only 16 states and the District of Columbia have laws that protect the right to abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an NGO that advocates for sexual and reproductive health rights.

Abortion bans don’t work

Dr. Herminia Palacio, the institute’s president and CEO, said decades of research consistently show that abortion bans and restrictions don’t reduce unintended pregnancy or demand for abortion.

“And they certainly do not help people improve their health,” said Palacio. “Rather, they impose significant hurdles to obtaining care, causing stress for people in need of abortion and leading some to experience forced pregnancy and all its troubling consequences.”

Rep. Tim Ryan, Democrat of Ohio, said the ruling was “the largest overreach in history” as it removed a constitutional right for the first time, essentially introducing “government-mandated pregnancies.”

A tearful Rep. Cori Bush, Democrat of Missouri, who had an abortion after being raped as a 17-year-old, described the court as “far-right, racist and supremacist.”

Planned Parenthood’s CEO Alexis McGill Johnson said the decision amounts to “the removal of women’s rights to bodily autonomy” but her organization will continue fighting to ensure women can take care of themselves as best as possible.

“This is about power and control,” she said. “Abortion is still legal in some states, and Planned Parenthood will do whatever we can to ensure people have services.”

“This horrifying decision will have devastating consequences, and it must be a wake-up call, especially to young people who will bear the burden,” said former US First Lady Michelle Obama.

Friday’s Supreme Court ruling on the appeal of a case brought by the Mississippi Department of Health, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, overturned the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, which held that the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution provides a “fundamental right to privacy” that protects women’s rights to seek an abortion “without undue restrictive interference from the government.” De facto, the decision also upended the Supreme Court’s 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which barred states from enacting abortion restrictions expressly for “the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.” 

Justice Samuel Alito Jr.’s opinion overruling Roe and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s concurrence said the decision ending a woman’s constitutional right to abortion shouldn’t endanger other sexual and reproductive rights that the court has recognized such as contraception, interracial marriage and same-sex marriage.

But the concurrence by Justice Clarence Thomas calls for not just revisiting but “overruling” all of the court’s substantive due process precedents including Obergefell v. Hodges, which deals with same-sex marriage, Griswold v. Connecticut, a landmark contraception case, and Lawrence v. Texas, a major case that invalidated anti-sodomy laws.

“After overruling these demonstrably erroneous decisions, the question would remain whether other constitutional provisions guarantee the myriad rights that our substantive due process cases have generated,” he wrote – although he omitted reconsideration of interracial marriage — which would make his own marriage illegal.

States prepare for patient influx

Some states where abortion is legal are already preparing for an influx of people seeking abortion, as previously reported by Health Policy Watch.

Last month, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul announced a $35 million investment to directly support abortion providers in anticipation of Roe v. Wade being overturned.

“New York has always been at the forefront of the fight for abortion rights, and as the first female governor of New York, I will not let us go backwards,” said Hochul. “This landmark funding will get resources into the hands of clinics who need our help, safeguarding access to abortion in our state and setting an example for the rest of the nation to follow.”

Image Credits: Gayatri Malhotra / Unsplash.

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