President Joe Biden on Tuesday warned that the movement led by former president Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress is seeking to criminalise basic health care for women on a national level and vowed to hold the line against GOP anti-abortion proposals as long as he is in the White House.
Speaking at a campaign event alongside Vice President Kamala Harris, First Lady Jill Biden and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff — the first joint appearance of the likely 2024 Democratic ticket — Mr Biden warned that Republicans, if returned to power in the White House, will act to roll back protections and civil rights not just for women, but for LGBT+ Americans and anyone who relies on the right to privacy laid out in a string of US Supreme Court precedents legalising contraception, marriage equality and decriminalising same-sex relations.
In between a dozen disruptions from protesters shouting out against his handling of the Israel-Hamas war — outbursts that were quickly drowned out by successive chants of “four more years” and “let’s go, Joe” — Mr Biden pointed to efforts by Republican state attorneys general to criminalise the use of medication abortion within their states and to prosecute family members who help their relatives procure abortion care.
The president also warned that his likely 2024 opponent, Mr Trump, is in favour of such proposals, and has himself endorsed a federal ban on abortion.
“That means even if you live in a state where extremist Republicans are not in charge of the state government, the right to choose your right to privacy is still a risk. But as long as I have power of the presidency know this, if Congress were to pass a national abortion ban I will veto it,” he said, drawing cheers from the crowd at a performing arts venue in Manassas, Virginia.
The rally for Mr Biden and Ms Harris’ re-election effort came just one day after the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision legalising abortion rights in Roe v Wade more than a half-century ago.
Noting that the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned Roe has allowed abortion bans to be enacted in wide swaths of the US, Mr Biden exhorted rallygoers to remember that it was Mr Trump and the trio of justices he named to the Supreme Court — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — who “ripped away the rights and freedoms of women in America,” and said it would be him and Ms Harris who will restore those rights if returned to the White House for a second term with Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.
But he cautioned the crowd that Mr Trump is “betting” that women won’t hold him responsible for the Dobbs ruling or what has transpired since.
Mr Biden and Ms Harris, who are running in what is almost certain to be a rematch against Mr Trump and an as-yet unknown running-mate, are betting that their focus on reminding voters of what Mr Trump’s court appointees have wrought and warning of the consequences of a second Trump term will galvanise voters who might otherwise remain unenthused about returning the Biden administration to power for a second four years.
Biden campaign officials believe focusing on the consequences of Dobbs will prove fruitful in the November general election, citing a string of Democratic victories following the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling.
Last year, in the first full year without Roe’s protections, stories of patients who were forced seek emergency care hundreds of miles from home or who suffered life-threatening consequences after they were denied care for nonviable pregnancies have rocked communities and courtrooms across the country.
Mr Trump has routinely taken credit for the reversal of Roe and has called the development a “miracle” even as a wide majority of Americans oppose the Supreme Court’s ruling and support protections for abortion rights.
The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in a case that will determine the fate of a widely used drug for medication abortion, the most common form of abortion care in the US, while powerful anti-abortion groups and GOP lawmakers revive their campaigns for even more restrictions on care.
Mr Biden’s campaign and abortion rights advocates have stressed that any federal abortion bans would undermine abortion rights even in states that have ensured those protections.
Alex Woodward contributed reporting