WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Thursday he is launching a “whole-of-government” response to try to safeguard access to abortions in Texas after the Supreme Court’s decision not to block the state’s near-total ban on the procedure.
In a statement, Biden said he was directing the Office of the White House Counsel and his Gender Policy Council to involve the Health and Human Services Department and the Justice Department to evaluate what “legal tools we have to insulate women and providers from the impact of Texas’ bizarre scheme of outsourced enforcement to private parties.”
Texas’ law, which took effect Wednesday, “unleashes unconstitutional chaos and empowers self-anointed enforcers to have devastating impacts,” the president said.
The law, known as Senate Bill 8, bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know they are pregnant, and has unique enforcement provisions allowing private citizens, rather than state officials, to sue abortion providers.
The president called the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling overnight “an unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights under Roe v. Wade” since the decision nearly 50 years ago.
“Complete strangers will now be empowered to inject themselves in the most private and personal health decisions faced by women,” Biden said. “This law is so extreme it does not even allow for exceptions in the case of rape or incest. And it not only empowers complete strangers to inject themselves into the most private of decisions made by a woman — it actually incentivizes them to do so with the prospect of $10,000 if they win their case.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a brief statement Thursday that his department “is deeply concerned about Texas SB 8. We are evaluating all options to protect the constitutional rights of women, including access to an abortion.”
The court’s majority, unsigned opinion said that while abortion providers “raised serious questions” about the law’s constitutionality, their arguments did not adequately address “complex and novel” procedural questions presented by the case.
After the law went into effect, Democratic members of Congress renewed their calls for expanding the Supreme Court to defend Roe v. Wade and demanded passage of a bill that would codify those protections. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday she would bring the measure to the floor when lawmakers return from recess.