March 23, 2023

By SEUNG MIN KIM Associated Press

President Joe Biden promised Tuesday that the first bill he sends to Capitol Hill next year will be one that codifies Roe v. Wade — if Democrats control enough seats in Congress for Biden to enact abortion protections — in a speech designed to energize his party. voters just three weeks before the November midterm elections.

“If you care about the right to choose, then you have to vote,” Biden said during remarks at the Howard Theater in Washington. He urged attendees to remember how they felt when the Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion in late June and repeatedly criticized Republicans across the country who have pushed for the procedure to be restricted, often without exceptions.

Biden said that “the only sure way to stop these extremist laws that endanger women’s health and rights is for Congress to pass a law.” She acknowledged that right now, “we’re a handful of votes short” to restore abortion protections at the federal level, urging voters to send more Democrats to Congress.

“If we do that, this is my promise to you and to the American people: The first bill I will send to Congress will be to codify Roe v. Wade,” Biden said. “And when Congress passes it, I will sign it in January, 50 years after Roe was first decided as the law of the land.”

That’s a big yes.

Democrats repeatedly tried in this Congress to enshrine abortion rights into law, only to be thwarted by Republican filibusters and their own members’ unwillingness to change Senate rules. That dynamic is likely to persist no matter what happens in the November election.

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Abortion rights have been a key motivating factor for Democrats this year, though the economy and inflation remain top concerns for most voters.

For the White House, it will not be enough to maintain control of both houses of Congress, which is already an uphill battle, in order to enshrine Roe’s protections in law. The Senate would have to abolish filibuster, the legislative rule that requires 60 votes for a majority of bills to advance in the chamber, in order to pass an abortion measure with a simple majority of senators.

Biden, who has long resisted any review of the Senate’s institutional rules, said in the days after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe in Dobbs v. Jackson that he would support removing that supermajority threshold for abortion bills, just as he did for voting rights legislation. .

But two moderate Democrats, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, Ariz., and Joe Manchin, W.Va., support keeping the filibuster. Sinema has said he wants to maintain the filibuster precisely so that any Republican-backed abortion restrictions face a much greater hurdle to pass in the Senate.

Democratic Senate candidates in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the party’s two best chances to flip seats currently held by Republicans, have said they support removing filibuster to pass abortion legislation. Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman has actively campaigned to be the 51st vote for priorities like legalizing abortion, codifying same-sex marriage protections and making it easier to unionize workers, all measures that would otherwise be blocked by filibuster in the Senate.

Abortion, and proposals by some Republicans to impose nationwide restrictions on the procedure, have been a regular fixture of Biden’s political rhetoric this election cycle, as Democrats seek to energize voters in a mid-term season. difficult period for the ruling party in Washington.

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At fundraisers and political speeches, Biden has vowed to reject any restrictions on abortion that might make their way to his desk in a GOP-controlled Congress. She has also urged voters to boost the Democratic ranks in the Senate so that enough senators not only support reinstating abortion across the country, but are willing to change Senate rules to do so.

“If you give me two more Democratic senators in the United States Senate, I promise you, I promise you, we will codify Roe,” Biden said at a Democratic National Committee rally in Washington last month. “Once again we will make Roe the law of the land. And once again we will protect a woman’s right to choose.”

On Tuesday, Biden made a direct appeal to young voters, who traditionally turn out at lower rates than other age demographics in midterm elections. Though his comments focused primarily on abortion, Biden also cited his decisions to forgive billions of dollars in student loan debt and grant pardons for marijuana possession, moves popular with younger voters.

“What I am saying is that you represent the best of us. Your generation will not be ignored, it will not be shunned, and it will not remain silent,” Biden said, adding, “In 2020, you voted to bring about the change you wanted to see in the world. In 2022, you must exercise your power to vote again for the future of our nation and the future of your generation.”

Court decisions and state legislation have changed, and sometimes changed again, the status of abortion laws across the country. Currently, there are statewide pregnancy bans in 12 states. In another, Wisconsin, clinics have stopped performing abortions, though there is dispute over whether the ban is in place. In Georgia, abortion is prohibited when cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks and before women know they are pregnant.

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Meanwhile, encoding Roe remains a very popular position. In a July AP-NORC poll, 60% of American adults said they believe Congress should pass a law guaranteeing access to legal abortion across the country.

Even with the economy dominating much of the midterm speech, abortion has been a touchstone in high-profile races from Ohio to Arizona, especially as Democrats try to nab Republicans among their most ardent anti-abortion voters who want a vote. absolute or almost total. bans and a majority of American adults who want at least some legal access to elective abortions.

For example, in Georgia, Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker went so far in his only debate against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock that he denied his previous support for a sweeping nationwide abortion ban. Despite Walker’s earlier statements captured on video, he insisted that Warnock misrepresented his position. Walker said in the debate that he supports a Georgia statute that bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, an effective ban for some women because it’s so early they don’t even know they’re pregnant. The law includes exceptions for subsequent abortions in cases of rape, incest and that involve risks to a woman’s health.

Warnock, meanwhile, avoided direct questions about whether he would support any limits on abortion, instead directing the question at Walker’s position.

Geoff Mulvihill in Cherry Hill, NJ, and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.