Biden vows codifying Roe v. Wade will top his agenda if Democrats expand control

By: - October 18, 2022 2:48 pm

President Joe Biden speaks at a Democratic National Committee event at the Howard Theatre on Oct. 18, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Tuesday promised that if Democrats keep control of the U.S. House and gain a few more Democratic seats in the Senate, then “the first bill that I will send to Congress will be to codify Roe v. Wade.”

He also told supporters at a Democratic National Committee event that if Republicans take control of Congress, they will try to pass a national ban on abortion, warning that access to reproductive health care is on the ballot on Nov. 8.

The speech, at the historic Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C., came three weeks before midterm elections that will determine which party will control the House and Senate. 

“If Republicans get their way with a national ban, it won’t matter where you live in America,” Biden said, referring to Republican-controlled states that have enacted and are considering restrictive abortion bills.

Roe v. Wade overturned

The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision in late June overturned nearly 50 years of precedent that allowed people the right to access reproductive care like abortion, leaving decisions on abortion to states.

Biden vowed that if a Republican-controlled Congress were to pass a bill banning abortion nationwide, “I’ll veto it.” Democrats currently control both legislative branches, and are hoping to keep their razor-thin margins come November.

“The only sure way to stop these extremists’ laws that … put in jeopardy women’s health and rights is for Congress to pass a law,” Biden said, speaking of the 22 states that have laws that would severely restrict the access to abortion.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, said during an interview with CNN following the Dobbs decision that he would support a nationwide 15-week ban on abortion. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, also introduced a bill following the Dobbs decision that would ban abortion nationwide at 15 weeks.

Such a bill would need 60 GOP votes in the U.S. Senate to advance past a filibuster but many Senate Republicans have shied away from public support. The Senate now is evenly divided 50-50, with Democrats in control with tie-breaking votes cast by Vice President Kamala Harris.

“If you care about the right to choose, then you gotta vote,” Biden said. “That’s why these midterm elections are so critical.”

Democrats have leaned into campaigning on reproductive rights as a top issue. However, many polls have shown that inflation and economic concerns remain as motivating issues for American voters.

Biden said that for decades Republicans have tried to overturn Roe v. Wade, and argued that those views are extreme and a majority of Americans don’t agree with banning abortion.

Kansas vote

The president pointed to Kansas, a state dominated by Republicans, where this summer residents overwhelmingly voted to reject a constitutional amendment that would have allowed state lawmakers to enact abortion restrictions.

That’s been the only ballot question about abortion since the Supreme Court’s ruling in June, though California, Kentucky, Michigan and Vermont residents will vote on abortion ballot questions on Election Day.

Biden asked people at the Howard Theatre to remember how they felt after learning Roe v. Wade was overturned.

“The anger, the worry, the disbelief, the unbelievable fact that for the first time in our history, the Supreme Court didn’t just fail to preserve a constitutional freedom and actually took away the right that was so fundamental to Americans, took away a right and the fear that now that most personal decisions may not only be made by the woman or doctor but by politicians to make that decision,” Biden said.

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Ariana Figueroa
Ariana Figueroa

Ariana covers the nation's capital for States Newsroom. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections and campaign finance.