Biden to ask Congress to codify Roe v. Wade abortion rights protections if Democrats keep control

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about lowering costs for American families during his visit to Irvine Valley Community College, in Irvine, California, October 14, 2022.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

President Joe Biden will announce Tuesday that the first bill he will send to the next U.S. Congress would codify the abortion rights protections outlined in Roe v. Wade.

Biden will make the promise during a speech hosted by the Democratic National Committee on Tuesday afternoon in Washington, DC.

The president will vow that if more Democratic senators are elected and his party keeps the House in the upcoming midterm elections, the first legislation he will send would enshrine abortion rights protections, according to a Democratic official familiar with his remarks. Biden aims to sign the bill into law close to the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, which is Jan. 22 of next year, the official said.

Abortion has become a critical issue for voters after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturned the protections of Roe earlier this year, sending the issue back to the states. Since then, more than a dozen Republican-led states — most of which do not allow for exceptions for rape or incest — have effectively banned abortions.

Biden’s announcement comes three weeks from Election Day, when voters will decide which party controls both chambers of Congress. Republicans are favored to win the House, an outcome that would make it all but impossible to pass a bill to codify abortion rights.

Democrats, who control both chambers of Congress, tried to approve legislation to enshrine Roe into law this year. Republicans denied Democrats — who hold 50 seats in the Senate — the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster in the chamber.

Many prominent Democrats have called to circumvent the filibuster to protect abortion rights with a simple majority vote, but at least two members of the party — Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — have said they oppose the move. Biden earlier this year promised to codify the Roe decision if two more Democrats got elected to the Senate.

The Supreme Court ruling sent the issue of abortion back to the state level, but some Republicans are looking to further restrict access nationally. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., proposed a national abortion ban that would include the penalty of jail time for doctors who perform them.

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