Biden’s political and personal evolution on abortion exposed after release of draft Supreme Court opinion

The court has not yet verified the authenticity of the document. Its disclosure reflected a seismic breach in the traditions of the body. And its content, if true, was extraordinary: a sweeping rejection of the right to abortion that had been guaranteed to American women for nearly half a century.

“If this decision holds, it’s really quite a drastic decision,” he said on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews. He recited a litany of “fundamental rights” which he said could now be undermined if the draft ruling were ordered: “Who do you marry, whether or not you decide to conceive a child, whether or not you can have an abortion “were all now at stake,” he warned.

Weeks before a formal court ruling is expected, the leak significantly accelerated plans to confront the issue through executive actions and on the campaign trail. For the millions of women who supported Biden during his presidential campaign in part based on his vow to protect their reproductive rights, this will be a watershed moment for the president to prove his willingness to fight for those protections.

“A Seismic Thing”

As he directs his staff to prepare options for when the decision is made official, Biden’s team eagerly awaits what this news will mean for Democrats heading into November’s midterm elections. when both houses of Congress could return to Republican control.

A Biden adviser said he expected and hoped the news would spur many people to channel their “energy and rage” into voting for candidates in November who support legal abortion rights.

“It will have a tremendous galvanizing force with some of the Americans who still don’t show up or really haven’t looked at the mid-points yet,” the adviser said. “It’s a seismic thing coming out of the Supreme Court, and it’s going to take a seismic movement in response…to elect more pro-choice elected officials.”

The councilor named young people, people of color, women, independents and suburban women as groups they expect the opinion project to galvanize. While social issues have been largely “abstract” so far, “it won’t be abstract anymore,” the adviser said. “This is going to be real.”

They warned that the development does not alter the significant headwinds Democrats face in November. But that proposed Supreme Court ruling will now be one of many issues Biden and other top officials discuss publicly as they increasingly try to draw a contrast between Democrats and a Republican party that Biden has recently begun to describe as moving into extreme territory.

“I think in some ways the Republican Party is like the dog that caught the bus here, because it’s campaigned for decades to unseat Roe,” Sen. Tina Smith, a Minnesota Democrat, said on CNN on Tuesday. “Now they’re on the verge of achieving their goal, and they’re dramatically out of step with the American public. And I believe there will be consequences for that.”

A complicated file for Biden

Abortion is a loaded issue for a president who has witnessed the evolution of abortion policy first-hand over the half-century of his career. Long one of the more moderate voices in the Democratic Party on abortion, Biden reckoned with personal qualms rooted in his Catholic faith.

He said early in his career that while he supported individuals’ right to abortion, he opposed the federal funds that paid for them. He later supported Republican efforts to ban so-called “partial-birth abortions,” a non-medical term describing rare late procedures, and said he wished he had gone further in restricting them.

In 2006, two years before he was elected vice president, he told an interviewer that he “didn’t see abortion as a choice and a right.” A year later, he opened up about his inner conflict during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“I was 29 when I came to the US Senate and I learned a lot,” he said. “I am a practicing Catholic, and this is the biggest dilemma for me in terms of matching my religious and cultural views with my political responsibility.”

He still mostly avoids using the word “abortion” in public, preferring vaguer terms like “a woman’s right to choose” instead. When he used the word on Tuesday it was the first time he had said it aloud since becoming president last year – even as the right to have one came under increasing threat in the months following his taking office.

At the same time, its public stances have shifted significantly over time, a change that reflects a Democratic party that has mostly stopped turning away from abortion as a galvanizing political issue. As a candidate in 2019, Biden rescinded his longstanding support for an amendment preventing the use of federal funds for abortions after being confronted by campaign advisers, who felt the opinion was not politically tenable. .

As president, Biden has taken some steps to reverse restrictive Trump-era abortion rules, including the “Mexico City policy” banning U.S. funding for international organizations that perform abortions. He also removed anti-abortion restrictions on federal funding for health services for low-income Americans.

“We said the sky was falling”

Yet abortion is far from the driving issue of the Biden administration. Biden has spent most of his time in office focusing on other areas, from containing the coronavirus pandemic to supporting Ukraine in its battle against Russia to strengthening the economy. Even when states began passing restrictive laws except to eliminate abortions, the issue did not top Biden’s agenda.

“We said the sky was falling on us, and I think what happened with the leak of that notice last night – if that’s indeed the end of the final notice – was ultimately a demonstration that we were shutting down what we called the credibility gap,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

She said that as abortion-rights supporters begin to realize that those protections are now under threat, they will look to elected officials, including Biden and members of Congress, for action.

“We will hold everyone accountable for what it is within their purview to do at this time,” she said. “I think the administration, both the president and the vice president, issued strong statements today condemning what this draft advisory indicated and calling for a federal solution.”

Behind the scenes, Biden advisers have been drawing up plans for the day Roe is ousted, including convening roundtables with state lawmakers to discuss the issue and solicit ideas in recent weeks.

Options include executive action that could make it easier for women to travel to get abortions in states where they are still legal or expand access to medical abortion through the mail. Some advocates have also suggested leasing federal land for abortion clinics, circumventing state laws that restrict them.

The Biden administration has been working for months to prepare for the Supreme Court’s expected decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, though it has not spelled out in detail what options could be taken to mitigate the effects of such a move. decision.

The work was done through the White House Gender Policy Council and the Office of the White House Legal Counsel, and Biden said in his statement Tuesday that his administration “will be ready when a decision is rendered”. Biden also warned that the draft opinion could suggest that “a whole range of rights” — not just access to abortion — could ultimately be weakened.

Publicly, the White House has primarily focused on urging Congress to enshrine abortion rights into law, a strategy unlikely to succeed in an evenly divided Senate. Biden was evasive on Tuesday when asked if he would support removing the legislative filibuster to allow for an easier passage.

“I’m not ready to make those judgments now,” he said.

Other Democrats say there is little time or space for such deliberation as millions of women face the growing likelihood that they will not have access to abortion.

“I think that’s where all Democrats should be,” Warren said on CNN. “I’ve made this argument, I’ve made this argument for years. In a democracy it doesn’t make sense, it’s undemocratic to let a minority continue to control the United States Senate.”

Jacob L. Thornton