© Reuters. U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a memorial service for former Vice President Walter Mondale in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., May 1, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
By Steve Holland and Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden on Tuesday vowed to protect abortion rights and warned that a potential Supreme Court ruling overturning its landmark decision legalizing the procedure nationwide could undermine other freedoms that Americans possess.
Biden, a Democrat, made his remarks after a draft Supreme Court decision, leaked late on Monday, showed that its conservative majority is prepared to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The court confirmed the authenticity of the leaked document.
The president made clear that his administration is ready to protect abortion rights when a ruling is issued. He said the ruling could reverberate beyond a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy, mentioning same-sex marriage and other freedoms.
“It would mean that every other decision relating to the notion of privacy is thrown into question,” Biden told reporters at Joint Base Andrews outside of Washington, before departing for Alabama. “It’s a fundamental shift in American jurisprudence.”
Abortion has been a flashpoint between Democrats and Republicans in the United States for decades. Democrats tend to support abortion rights. Republican tend to be in opposition. Former President Donald Trump, who promised to appoint justices who would overturn abortion rights, added three jurists who pushed the court’s conservative majority to 6-3, giving it the opportunity to overturn Roe.
Biden indicated he was not supportive of calls to change the makeup of the court and said he was not prepared to make a judgment on whether the Senate should change its rules to allow a simple majority to codify abortion rights into law. Democrats currently control the 50-50 Senate thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’s ability to provide a tie-breaking vote.
“I believe that a woman’s right to choose is fundamental,” Biden said in a statement earlier on Tuesday. “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 that as more restrictive Republican-backed abortion laws have been enacted in various states and with a Supreme Court ruling looming, he has directed White House officials to prepare options for an administration response to various outcomes.
“We will be ready when any ruling is issued,” Biden said.
The Supreme Court ruling in the abortion case from Mississippi, due by the end of June, could energize voters on both sides of the issue to turn out in November’s midterm elections, when control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate is at stake. Democrats also have a slim majority in the House.
“If the Court does overturn Roe, it will fall on our nation’s elected officials at all levels of government to protect a woman’s right to choose. And it will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November,” Biden said in his statement. “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.”
The draft opinion was posted by the news outlet Politico.
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” conservative Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the draft opinion dated Feb. 10.
Based on Alito’s opinion, the court would find that the Roe v. Wade decision that allowed abortions performed before a fetus would be viable outside the womb – between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy – was wrongly decided because the U.S. Constitution makes no specific mention of abortion rights.