Why Isn’t Biden Rushing To Protect Abortion?

Are Biden, Schumer, and Pelosi really going to stand by idly and let the states take away abortion rights? They just might.

Lukas Barth/pool via AP
President Biden during the first day of the G7 leaders' summit at Bavaria, June 26, 2022. Lukas Barth/pool via AP

Instead of acting to ensure abortion access in America, President Biden is playing international tourist.

Shortly after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, the President jetted off to Germany and Spain. Before long, he’ll be headed off on a second foreign trip to the Middle East. 

Why isn’t Mr. Biden rushing to protect access to abortion? His Democratic party controls both the Senate and the House of Representatives, so it’s not as if Congress is stopping him from acting. There are plenty of steps Mr. Biden could take if he wanted to. 

The President could use federal funds to train and deploy medical professionals to perform abortions. He could, as some advocates have urged, use federal property such as veterans hospitals and military bases to offer abortions. He could order American marshals or other armed personnel to protect these new federal abortion clinics.  

Yet Mr. Biden, so far at least, has done none of this.

One possible reason for the president’s hesitation could be that Mr. Biden actually agrees with Republican state legislatures that some restrictions on abortion are warranted.

Back in July 2008, when Mr. Biden’s name first surfaced as a potential running mate for President Obama, a New York Sun editorial mentioned at least four votes by Mr. Biden to outlaw a procedure known as partial-birth abortion. Mr. Biden was one of 17 Senate Democrats who backed legislation signed into law by President George W. Bush outlawing partial-birth abortion.

In a 2006 interview with Texas Monthly noted by CNN, Mr. Biden said, “I do not view abortion as a choice and a right. I think it’s always a tragedy, and I think that it should be rare and safe, and I think we should be focusing on how to limit the number of abortions.” 

Even so, when it comes to these issues, Mr. Biden, while Catholic, is hardly Justice Antonin Scalia, or even Representative Henry Hyde, author of the Hyde Amendment restricting taxpayer funding of abortions. Remember, this is a guy who served as vice president in an administration that fought the Little Sisters of the Poor in court to force them to offer contraceptive coverage in their health insurance plan.

So what gives? A cynic — or anyone who has been around Washington politics for a while — might suspect that Mr. Biden and his Democratic Party allies care more about keeping Roe alive as a political issue than they do about the practical challenges of access to women’s health care.

If Mr. Biden fixed the problem quickly by acting to ensure access to abortion, voters might reasonably conclude that Democrats were overreacting when they claimed the Supreme Court’s decision would usher in some terrible new era of back-alley, coat-hanger care.

With a quick Biden fix, voters might better understand that the Supreme Court’s decision wasn’t intended as a nationwide abortion ban, but merely aimed at restoring the issue to the responsibility of government, doctors, insurers, and individuals, like much of the rest of health care.

In that scenario — with no practical change to abortion availability — the issue might recede in importance for many loyal Democratic voters. The electorate would instead choose the next president or congressman based on some other issue, like inflation or foreign policy.

It would be different had the justices acted under a Republican president and with a Republican Congress. If the Supreme Court had scrapped Roe under a President Trump, you’d see street protests that would make Black Lives Matter look tame.

The relative tameness of the reaction so far, though, suggests some skepticism by voters about the real-life effects. Are Mr. Biden, Senate Majority Leader Schumer, and Speaker Pelosi really going to stand by idly and let the states take away abortion rights? They just might. 

Who gets blamed politically for the first grisly death of a mother in a failed back-alley abortion? Who gets blamed for the stories of the poor pregnant mothers in restrictive states who are stuck without access to care? The Democrats seem to be betting that the blame will fall on Justice Samuel Alito and his colleagues and on the Republicans who nominated and confirmed them. 

If Messrs. Biden and  Schumer and Mrs. Pelosi allow these horrors to happen, it will be a sure sign they want the political issue more than they want to fix the problem.

The New York Sun

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