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US President Joe Biden urged the election of more lawmakers who support abortion rights and said he’d seek to enshrine the protections of Roe vs Wade into law after a report that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn the landmark ruling.

“At the federal level, we will need more pro-choice senators and a pro-choice majority in the House to adopt legislation that codifies Roe, which I will work to pass and sign into law,” Biden said in a statement Tuesday. 

That’s an unlikely outcome. Writing the protections of the Roe vs Wade decision into US statute would be one of the most difficult legislative battles of the modern era. Under current rules, abortion rights-supporting Democrats and the few Republicans who ally with them would need to hold at least 60 seats in the Senate to pass the bill over a filibuster.

A House-passed bill to codify Roe was blocked in February in the Senate on a 46-48 vote. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat who has obstructed much of Biden’s agenda, voted with Republicans to filibuster the measure.

Additionally, some key supporters of abortion rights — Democrat Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have long opposed changing the 60-vote threshold for advancing such bills.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer said in remarks from the Senate floor on Tuesday that he would soon force another vote on legislation to codify Roe.

Politico reported on Monday that it had obtained a draft majority opinion of the justices that would strike down the 1973 ruling, touching off demonstrations outside the Supreme Court. The court confirmed in a statement on Tuesday that the draft opinion is authentic but not final.

“It concerns me a great deal that we’re going to, after 50 years, decide that a woman does not have the right to choose,” Biden told reporters travelling with him to a weapons plant in Alabama.

He also questioned the legal reasoning behind the draft decision, written by Justice Samuel Alito. “If the rationale of the decision as released were to be sustained, a whole range of rights are in question,” Biden said. “If this decision holds, it’s really quite a radical decision.”

Vice-president Kamala Harris — the highest-ranking woman ever to hold federal elected office — said Roe’s opponents “want to punish women and take away their rights to make decisions about their own bodies.

“Republican legislators in states across the country are weaponising the use of the law against women,” Harris said, adding that now was the time to “fight for women and for our country with everything we have.”

Striking down Roe would reshape the battle between Democrats and Republicans for control of Congress in the November midterm elections, potentially energising both parties’ bases. Those campaigns are getting under way with primaries in Ohio and Indiana on Tuesday.

Congress’s top two Democrats — Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — said in a statement on Monday night that the decision “would go down as an abomination, one of the worst and most damaging decisions in modern history”. 

Schumer on Tuesday also accused the three justices appointed by former President Donald Trump — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — of lying about their intentions regarding Roe during their Senate confirmation hearings.

Republicans focused on the leak of the draft ruling itself, calling for an investigation into the unprecedented disclosure. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell castigated Biden, Pelosi and Schumer in a statement on Tuesday for overlooking what he called “an attack on the independence of the Supreme Court”.

The court’s chief justice, John Roberts, said he had ordered the marshal of the court to investigate the source of the leak.

A decision to overturn Roe could reverberate through the 2024 presidential campaign and magnify attention on gubernatorial and legislative races across the country, as it would give states more power to decide the legality of abortions.

The Democratic National Committee said reproductive rights will be on the ballot in November “and this midterm election is more important now than ever before.

“Voters will make their voices heard, we will fight back with everything we have, and Republicans will have to answer for their party’s relentless attacks on Americans’ rights,” the committee said in a statement.

Bloomberg. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com


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