Biden ‘does not agree with’ expanding US Supreme Court, according to White House press secretary

US president likely will not support progressive demands to add justices to nation’s high court

'People will die': Women react after Supreme Court overturns the constitutional right to abortion

President Joe Biden “does not agree with” expanding the number of seats on the US Supreme Court in the wake of a decision ending a constitutional right to abortion care, according to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force 1 on 25 June, one day after the court overturned Roe v Wade, Ms Jean-Pierre said the president does not support adding more justices to the nine-member court, which has a conservative majority following three appointments by Donald Trump during his administartion.

The Biden administration and the US Department of Justice have announced support for patients forced to travel to states where abortion care is legal and efforts to protect access to medication abortion, as nearly half the US is poised to outlaw abortion and criminalise care.

Ms Jean-Pierre warned of “nightmare scenarios” and “devastating consequences” in the wake of Friday’s ruling in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

“This is a scary time, we understand that,” she said. “What happened yesterday … is extreme. That decision is extreme.”

She said the administration has urged Congress “to act to restore Roe and make it the law of the land,” which the Democratically controlled House of Representatives has repeatedly passed while the legislation has languished in a deadlocked US Senate.

“If that can’t happen the American public has to use their voice … at the ballot box,” she said.

But she said the president likely will not support progressive demands to expand the number of justices on the nation’s high court, which advocates have argued will combat antidemocratic efforts among the court’s conservative majority, including stripping away the constitutonal right to abortion against overwhelming public support to preserve Roe.

In 2021, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote an op-ed in the Boston Globe warning that the “Supreme Court’s conservative majority – recently supercharged to 6-3 – has issued decision after decision that veers away from both basic principles of law and widely held public opinion.”

“With each move, the court shows why it’s important to restore America’s faith in an independent judiciary committed to the rule of law,” she wrote. “To do that, I believe it’s time for Congress to yet again use its constitutional authority to expand the number of justices on the Supreme Court. I don’t come to this conclusion lightly or because I disagree with a particular decision; I come to this conclusion because I believe the current court threatens the democratic foundations of our nation.”

Meanwhile, a bipartisan panel convened under a “Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States” appeared to agree that term limits could be implemented.

Ms Jean-Pierre said the White House has “concerns” about apparent threats from Supreme Court justices curtailing or revoking other constitutional rights, including a concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas suggesting that the court should revisit key civil rights decisions on marriage equality, gay sex and contraception.

“Make no mistake, congressional Republicans have made it clear – Republican leaders, national Republican leaders have made it clear. They’re going to go after women’s reproductive healthcare across the country and beyond,” she said. “We’re going to continue to stand up, we’re going to continue tofight against that, we’re going to continue to tell people to use their voice ... The way we get to a solution here, to really resolving this, is to get Congress to act.”

On Friday, President Joe Biden directed the US Department of Health and Human Services “to protect women’s access to critical medications for reproductive health care” including “essential preventive health care like contraception and medication abortion.”

The directive includes identifying ways to ensure that prescription abortion drugs are “widely accessible” following “threats from state officials saying they will try to ban or severely restrict access to medication for reproductive health care.”

In a separate statement on Friday, US Attorney General Garland said the Justice Department stands “ready to work with other arms of the federal government that seek to use their lawful authorities to protect and preserve access to reproductive care.”

Mr Garland said the Justice Department will work to provide supprot for providers and people seeking abortions in states that will continue to allow them.

He also said that federal agencies “may continue to provide reproductive health services to the extent authorized by federal law” adding that “federal employees who carry out their duties by providing such services must be allowed to do so free from the threat of liability.”

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