Biden signs executive order on abortion, declares Supreme Court 'out of control'

"As long as I am president, a nationwide ban on abortion won't happen," Biden vowed in a speech ahead of signing the executive order. "I'll veto it."

 US President Joe Biden speaks about his economic agenda, during his visit to Cleveland, Ohio, US, July 6, 2022 (photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
US President Joe Biden speaks about his economic agenda, during his visit to Cleveland, Ohio, US, July 6, 2022
(photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)

US President Joe Biden said the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion was an exercise in "raw political power" and signed an executive order on Friday to help protect access to services to terminate pregnancies.

"What we're witnessing wasn't a constitutional judgment, it was an exercise in raw political power," Biden told reporters at the White House. "We cannot allow an out of control Supreme Court, working in conjunction with extremist elements of the Republican party, to take away freedoms and our personal autonomy."

The White House is not publicly entertaining the idea of reforming the court itself or expanding the nine-member panel.

Instead, Biden laid out how abortion rights could be codified into law by voters if they elected "two additional pro-choice senators, and a pro-choice House" and urged women to turn out in record numbers to vote. He said he would veto any law passed by Republicans to ban abortion rights nationwide.

"As long as I am president, a nationwide ban on abortion won't happen," Biden vowed before signing the executive order. "I'll veto it."

Biden has been under pressure from supporters, particularly progressives, to take action after the landmark decision, which upended roughly 50 years of protections for women's reproductive rights.

 Abortion rights protesters demonstrate after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Dobbs v Women’s Health Organization abortion case, overturning the landmark Roe v Wade abortion decision in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 27, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/LUCY NICHOLSON) Abortion rights protesters demonstrate after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Dobbs v Women’s Health Organization abortion case, overturning the landmark Roe v Wade abortion decision in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 27, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/LUCY NICHOLSON)

Biden directed the Health and Human Services Department to take action to protect and expand access to "medication abortion" approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the White House said.

He will also direct the department to ensure women have access to emergency medical care, family planning services, and contraception, including intrauterine devices (IUDs.)

Biden's attorney general and White House counsel will convene pro bono attorneys and other organizations to provide legal counsel for patients seeking an abortion as well as abortion providers.

"Such representation could include protecting the right to travel out of state to seek medical care," the White House said in a statement.

The Supreme Court's ruling restored states' ability to ban abortion. As a result, women with unwanted pregnancies face the choice of traveling to another state where the procedure remains legal and available, buying abortion pills online, or having a potentially dangerous illegal abortion.

Biden has condemned the court's ruling.

Biden looks ahead to midterm elections

The issue may help drive Democrats to the polls in the November midterm elections, when Republicans have a chance of taking control of Congress. Democrats have a slim majority in the House of Representatives and control the evenly divided Senate through Vice President Kamala Harris's tie-breaking vote.

Biden's executive order is also aimed at protecting patients' privacy and ensuring safety for mobile abortion clinics at state borders, and it directs the establishment of a task force to coordinate the administration's response on reproductive health care access, the White House said.

Biden on Friday urged women to vote this November, saying the fastest way to reverse the rollback of abortion rights is to have large Democratic majorities in Congress pass a law codifying such rights.

"This is the fastest route available," he told reporters at the White House. "It's my hope and my strong belief that women will in fact turn out in record numbers to reclaim the rights that have been taken from them by the court."

He also warned if Republicans take control after the midterm elections they have indicated they would pass a nationwide abortion ban, but said he would veto it.