President Joe Biden on Friday urged Americans to elect more members of Congress in November’s midterm elections who will support legislation protecting abortion access after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion.
The President said the court’s ruling means women’s health is now at risk in America and acknowledged there is no unilateral action he can take to restore the nationwide right to an abortion.
“This fall, Roe is on the ballot,” Biden said, speaking from the White House. “Personal freedoms are on the ballot. The right to privacy, liberty, equality – they’re all on the ballot. Until then, I will do all in my power to protect a woman’s right in states where they will face the consequences of today’s decision.”
Though there is little Biden can do to fully mitigate the effects of the ruling, the President outlined several steps his administration will take to try to protect abortion access. Biden said his administration would defend the right of a woman to travel to another state to receive an abortion if the procedure is outlawed in her home state.
“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.
The President is directing the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure medications that have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration like contraceptives and medication abortion are “available to the fullest extent possible.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland said Friday in a statement that states cannot ban Mifepristone – a medication used to end early pregnancy that has FDA approval.
The President said, “Some states are saying that they’ll try to ban or severely restrict access to these medications. But extremist governors and state legislators are looking to block the mail or search a person’s medicine cabinet or control a woman’s actions by tracking data on her app she uses are wrong and extreme and out of touch with the majority of Americans.”
The President noted several states have abortion bans that will go into effect now that Roe is overturned.
“State laws banning abortion are automatically taking effect today, jeopardizing the health of millions of women, some without exceptions. So extreme that the women can be punished for protecting her health. So extreme that women and girls are forced to bear their rapist’s child,” Biden said.
“It just stuns me,” he said, noting that poor women in the US will be the most affected by the ruling.
The President said his administration “remains vigilant as the implications of this decision play out.” He pointed to Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion overturning Roe v. Wade that explicitly called for the Supreme Court to reconsider its rulings striking down state restrictions on contraceptives, state sodomy bans and state prohibitions on same-sex marriage.
“This is extreme and dangerous path the court is now taking us on,” Biden said.
He said, “This decision is a culmination of a deliberate effort over decades to upset the balance of our law. It’s a realization of an extreme ideology and a tragic error by the Supreme Court, in my view.”
“I know so many of us are frustrated and disillusioned that the court has taken something away that’s so fundamental. I know so many women are now going to face incredibly difficult situations. I hear you, I support you, I stand with you,” Biden said.
He continued, “The consequences and the consensus of the American people – core principles of equality, liberty, dignity and the stability of the rule of law – demand that Roe should not have been overturned. With this decision a conservative majority of the Supreme Court shows how extreme it is, how far removed they are from the majority of this country.”
The White House has been bracing for the ruling from the nation’s highest court, which was announced Friday morning, and has been planning next steps for months.
While there is little the President can do through executive action to fully mitigate the decision, there are a number of steps Biden has been weighing in consultation with policy aides, political advisers and lawyers.
The President said earlier this month he believed that if the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, it would spur a “mini revolution” and propel Americans to vote many Republicans out of office in this year’s midterm elections.
Democratic officials and abortion rights groups expressed outrage in response to Friday’s ruling.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the ruling as “outrageous and heart wrenching.”
“What this means to women is such an insult. It’s a slap in the face to women about using their own judgment to make their own decisions about their reproductive freedom,” Pelosi said during a news conference on Friday.
“This is deadly serious,” Pelosi said, stressing that “reproductive freedom is on the ballot in November.”
Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts told CNN’s Erica Hill, “I am spitting mad over this. We have six extremist justices on the United States Supreme Court who have decided that their moral and religious views should be imposed on the rest of America. This is not what America wants.”
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Friday.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.