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Biden says draft opinion to overturn Roe is 'radical,' goes beyond abortion rights

The president said his administration would be prepared to respond should the court overturn the precedent, a possibility Democrats have been preparing for.
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden described as "radical" a draft opinion that indicates the Supreme Court is poised to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion and said it could jeopardize other rights, including the right to use contraception and same-sex marriage.

"If this decision holds, it is really quite a radical decision," Biden told reporters before he departed on Air Force One for a planned trip to Alabama.

Politico published a draft opinion Monday night indicating that the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade, which established a constitutional right to abortion nearly 50 years ago. The Supreme Court issued a statement Tuesday saying the draft was authentic but emphasizing it did not necessarily reflect the final opinion of any justice.

Biden said a final version of the draft opinion could produce a fundamental shift in the law that could jeopardize other rulings based on the right to privacy.

"It goes far beyond the concern of a right to choose. It goes to other basic rights, the right to marriage, the right to determine a whole range of things," said Biden, who was the chairman of the Judiciary Committee when he was a member of the Senate. 

Full coverage of abortion rights and the future of Roe v. Wade

Biden declined to call for a change in filibuster procedures in the Senate that would allow Democrats to pass legislation protecting abortion rights with fewer than 60 votes.

"I’m not prepared to make those judgments now, but you know I think the codification of Roe makes a lot of sense," Biden said when he was asked about the filibuster.

Vice President Kamala Harris — who was scheduled to speak Tuesday night at an event for Emily's List, a group that supports female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights — also framed the ruling as one that went beyond the issue of abortion.

"The rights of all Americans are at risk," Harris said in a statement. "If the right to privacy is weakened, every person could face a future in which the government can potentially interfere in the personal decisions you make about your life. This is the time to fight for women and for our country with everything we have."

In a statement earlier Tuesday, Biden reiterated his support for a constitutional right to abortion and urged the election of more lawmakers who support abortion rights.

“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 the statement.

Biden said his administration would be prepared to respond should the court overturn Roe, a possibility Democrats have been preparing for in recent months.

“We will be ready when any ruling is issued,” Biden said in his statement.

In anticipation of a ruling by the court, and following a Texas law that heavily restricts abortions, Biden said he has already directed his 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.”

Biden noted that his administration argued in defense of Roe v. Wade before the Supreme Court, saying the decision was based on “a long line of precedent recognizing ‘the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty’… against government interference with intensely personal decisions.”

Biden said he hasn't thought about the impact the decision could have on the midterm elections, but in a statement he urged the election of more members of Congress who support the right to an abortion, as the Senate currently lacks enough votes to pass legislation to protect abortion access.

"If the Court does overturn Roeit will fall on our nation’s elected officials at all levels of government to protect a woman’s right to choose," the statement said. "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."