WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Friday called the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade a sad day for the country and urged voters to take action in November's midterm elections to protect abortion rights.
"This is a sad day for the country, in my view, but it doesn't mean the fight is over," the president said in remarks from the White House.
Biden said his administration would take actions to try to ease access to abortions, like defending women who want to travel to another state for an abortion and protecting access to contraception and abortion pills. But ultimately it rests with Congress and voters to protect abortion rights, he said.
“This decision must not be the final word. My administration will use all of its appropriate lawful powers, but Congress must act. With your vote, you can act, you can have the final word,” Biden said. “This is not over.”
The decision comes at a crucial moment for Biden and Democrats, who are hoping to use the ruling to energize their base to turn out in the midterm elections. But the issue risks being overshadowed politically by broader worries over the economy, which voters have listed as their top concern.
“This fall, Roe is on the ballot, personal freedoms are on the ballot, the right to privacy, liberty, equality are all on the ballot,” Biden said.
Biden is scheduled to head overseas Saturday for a week of meetings with world leaders in Europe focused on Ukraine, the global economy and China. But the domestic turmoil back home could overshadow some of his intended message from that trip.
The ruling is the second blow from the Supreme Court in two days for a major Democratic domestic policy priority. On Thursday, the Court struck down a New York law that required those seeking a permit to carry a concealed handgun in public to demonstrate they had special need to do so.
Biden said the Court was taking the country down an "extreme and dangerous path," and called the ruling “cruel” for the disproportionate impact it would have on lower income women.
“Make no mistake, this decision is a combination of a deliberate effort over decades to upset the balance of our law,” Biden said. “It’s a realization of an extreme ideology and a tragic error by the Supreme Court, in my view. The court has done what it has never done before, expressly take away a constitutional right.”
Biden said he was directing the Department of Health and Human Services to take steps to ensure contraception and abortion pills "are available to the fullest extent possible."
Abortion pills, which are used in half of all abortions, have been available by mail since April 2021, when the FDA suspended enforcement of a requirement that the first pill be administered in person. Some lawmakers have suggested restricting access to those pills as well.
Biden said his administration would also defend that "bedrock right" for women to travel to another state for 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.
But he stopped short of taking some of the steps members of Congress have been calling for, such as providing federal resources for women to travel to states with fewer restrictions on abortion access, including travel vouchers and child care services, and paid time off for federal workers who have to travel to get abortion care.
Members of Congress had also said the federal government could make changes related to data collected through websites and mobile applications. Lawmakers and abortion advocates have warned that selling location data could pose risks to both patients and providers given the heightened tensions around the abortion debate. It also would enable advertisers to target women at clinics.
After weeks of threats to Supreme Court justices following the leak of a draft opinion of the ruling, Biden called for protesters to remain peaceful. Earlier this month, a man was arrested near the home of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh with a handgun, a knife, pepper spray and burglary tools.
"I call on everyone, no matter how deeply they care about this decision, to keep all protests peaceful, peaceful, peaceful, peaceful — no intimidation," Biden said. "Violence is never acceptable. Threats and intimidation are not speech. We must stand against violence, regardless of your rationale."