Biden says Americans should not ‘expect much of anything’ from Congress on abortion rights after midterms

Legislation to codify Roe v Wade has unlikely chance of passage if Democrats lose House majority

Alex Woodward
New York
Monday 14 November 2022 16:09 GMT
Related video: In October, Biden pledged to sign legislation passed by Congress to codify Roe v Wade as his first act of 2023

President Joe Biden does not believe there are enough votes in the upcoming Congress to enshrine abortion protections into federal law following the pending results of midterm elections giving Republican lawmakers likely control of the House of Representatives.

Asked during a press conference in Bali on 14 November what Americans can expect from lawmakers to advance abortion rights protections next year, the president said: “I don’t think they can expect much of anything other than we’re going to maintain our positions.”

“I don’t think there’s enough votes to codify,” unless Democratic candidates eke out victories in remaining House races, he added.

“I think it’s going to be very close, but I don’t think we’re going to make it,” he said.

Last month, the president committed to signing a bill that codifies protections affirmed by the landmark 1973 US Supreme Court case Roe v Wade if Democratic lawmakers retained control of Congress.

In remarks to a Democratic National Committee event on 18 October, the president said he would sign a bill – his first of 2023 – on the case decision’s 50th anniversary.

In June, the nation’s high court struck down precedents established by Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey that affirmed the constitutional right to abortion care.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, more than a dozen states have outlawed most abortions or severely restricted access to care, leading to the closures of dozens of clinics. Patients and providers across the US have warned of devastating consequences to losing access to legal abortion, while Democratic officials have made abortion rights central to their midterm campaigns as Republicans mull national abortion restrictions.

“If Republicans get their way with a national ban, it won’t matter where you live in America,” Mr Biden said in remarks to a Democratic National Committee event on 18 October. “The only sure way to stop these extremist laws that have put in jeopardy women’s health and rights is for Congress to pass a law.”

Mr Biden also said he will veto any anti-abortion legislation passed by a Republican-controlled Congress.

The Democratic-led House of Representatives passed the Women’s Health Protection Act earlier this year, though Senate Republicans have repeatedly obstructed its introduction in that chamber. That bill would codify the right to abortion care as affirmed by Roe v Wade.

The US Senate will remain under Democratic leadership following the results of this year’s elections, though control of the House – which currently has a firm Democratic majority – has not been finalised as several races with pending results will determine the balance of power in that chamber, and whether legislation supporting abortion care can be blocked or voted down by House Republicans.

Last week, voters in Michigan, Vermont and California voted to enshrine protections for abortion care in their state constitutions, while voters in Kentucky and Montana rejected anti-abortion referendums in their states.

Critical state-level elections for control of state legislatures, governors’ offices and secretaries of state will also determine the fates of abortion access across the US, as state lawmakers reconvene to consider new restrictions.

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