Abortion-rights groups rally around Biden campaign after debate performance

Prominent abortion-rights groups rallied around President Biden’s reelection campaign Friday, arguing that his administration’s record on reproductive health and the “existential” threat of another Trump administration outweigh a poor debate performance.

As Democratic lawmakers, strategists and activists spent the day panicking over Biden’s ability to lead the party heading into November, abortion-rights leaders said they’re confident he is the best person for the job.

“We’re extremely confident that uniting behind him is the most strategic move,” said Mini Timmaraju, president and CEO of Reproductive Freedom for All.

“I can say with certainty that it must come down to Joe Biden, the only candidate for president who believes in a future will where people have the freedom to decide whether when, if and how they build families,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Biden squared off against former President Trump in a debate Thursday night in what turned into a disastrous performance, including on abortion. While abortion has been one of the top issues Democrats want to highlight, Biden offered a confusing and muddled response on the subject.

When asked if he supports any limits on abortion, Biden awkwardly defended Roe v. Wade. Codifying the standards under Roe has been a key tenet of the Democratic Party this cycle.

“I support Roe v. Wade, which had three trimesters,” Biden said. “The first time is between a woman and a doctor. Second time is between a doctor and an extreme situation. A third time is between the doctor, I mean, between the women and the state.”

Biden called the end of federal abortion protections a “terrible thing” but did little to push back against Trump’s false claims about so-called late-term abortion.

“We’re in a state where, in six weeks, you don’t even know whether you’re pregnant or not, but you cannot see a doctor, have you, and have him decide on what your circumstances are, whether you need help,” Biden said.

Abortion-rights leaders on Friday acknowledged Biden had a rough debate, but they said his administration’s track record in the two years since Roe was overturned show he will be a bulwark against future efforts to limit abortion access.

“Donald Trump is an existential threat to women and to this entire country,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president of the National Women’s Law Center Action Fund. “A weak debate performance doesn’t put women’s lives in danger, but a second Trump presidency? That does.”

Timmaraju praised the Biden campaign’s use of surrogates, including abortion storytellers like Amanda Zurawski and Kate Cox.

“Their voices, plus actual, you know, content showing Donald Trump bragging about Roe are the most effective ways for us to fight back, and I think they’re doing a great job of that,” Timmaraju said.

But in a separate interview, Nourbese Flint, president of the group All* Above All and the All* Above All Action Fund, which focuses on reproductive justice for women of color, said she was hoping for more from Biden.

“It was the opportunity that the president didn’t seize, when being able to define the difference between him and Trump and what this moment means, and what this election means and what’s at stake,” Flint said.

Flint said restoring Roe is a step back in time to 1973 and is not moving forward.

“[Biden] missed the mark last night, but there’s a lot of time between now and the election,” Flint said. “I think it’s just even more important to hear from the campaign, to hear from the president himself, the differences between him and Trump [on] abortion access, and particularly how the solutions that he is offering rise to the moment.”

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