WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said that Texas’ restrictive new abortion law that went into effect Wednesday violates the Constitution and pledged to “protect and defend” abortion rights.
He said in a statement that the law, Texas SB 8, will “significantly impair women’s access to the health care they need, particularly for communities of color and individuals with low incomes.”
“And, outrageously, it deputizes private citizens to bring lawsuits against anyone who they believe has helped another person get an abortion, which might even include family members, health care workers, front desk staff at a health care clinic, or strangers with no connection to the individual,” Biden said.
He said that his administration is “deeply committed” to protecting the constitutional right established under Roe v. Wade. He did not specify, however, how his administration plans to do that, especially for women living in Texas.
The law, which bans most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, went into effect after the Supreme Court didn’t respond to an eleventh-hour request by abortion rights advocates Monday to halt its implementation.
Democratic members of Congress expressed outrage at the Supreme Court for not taking action, with a number of them reviving the argument to expand the court the number of justices to offset the conservative jurists who were added by former President Donald Trump. Biden signed an executive order earlier this year establishing a commission to study changes to the court.
Many Democrats also called for Congress to codify a woman’s right to choose by passing the Women’s Health Protection Act.
“By its inaction, the Supreme Court ended abortion access in TX last night. Roe v. Wade was effectively overruled, not with a bang, but with a whimper, through the shadow docket. This is why we need to urgently pass the Women’s Health Protection Act — it can’t wait any longer,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., the measure’s lead sponsor in the Senate, tweeted Wednesday.
The vast majority of women who have undergone an abortion in Texas are at least six weeks pregnant. Consequently, Planned Parenthood and other reproductive rights groups say that the law now prohibits nearly all abortions in the state.
The conservative 6-3 Supreme Court majority is expected to take up a case from Mississippi in its upcoming term beginning this fall that challenges Roe v. Wade.
Meanwhile, a recent NBC News poll found that more than half of people in the United States, 54 percent, believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
Despite the support from the public, Republican legislators across the country have been speeding up their efforts to limit access to abortion. A report in March by the Guttmacher Institute found that at the time, more than 500 abortion restrictions had been introduced in 44 states this year, compared to around 300 by the same time in 2019.