President Joe Biden told reporters Tuesday that the leaked Supreme Court opinion on overturning Roe v. Wade could pave the way for decisions undermining various other policies, including same-sex marriage.
Earlier in the day, Biden vowed to oppose the ruling whenever it is handed down, called for voters to elect “pro-choice” lawmakers, and asked Congress to pass legislation codifying Roe, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion nationwide.
“It concerns me a great deal that we’re going to, after 50 years, decide that a woman doesn’t have the right to choose,” Biden told reporters on his way to a visit to the Lockheed Martin facility in Troy, Alabama. “If this decision holds, it’s really quite a radical decision.”
“It concerns me a great deal that we’re gonna, after 50 years, decide a woman does not have a right to choose.”
"It concerns me a great deal that we're gonna, after 50 years, decide a woman does not have a right to choose."— The Recount (@therecount) May 3, 2022
— President Biden reacts to leaked SCOTUS draft opinion on Roe v. Wade. pic.twitter.com/RfKpeOHnWw
“The idea that we’re going to make a judgment that is going to say that no one can make the judgment to choose to abort a child, based on a decision by the Supreme Court, I think goes way overboard,” he continued before suggesting the Supreme Court could offer a similar ruling on other “privacy” related cases, including “who you marry.”
“There are so many fundamental rights that are affected by that, and I’m not prepared to leave that to the whims of the public at the moment,” the president said.
Biden, a Catholic, has said he is personally anti-abortion but respects a woman’s right to have the procedure, and his comments marked the first time he has said the word “abortion” since being sworn in as president.
“If the court does overturn Roe, it will fall on our nation’s elected officials at all levels of government to protect a woman’s right to choose. And it will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November,” Biden said in his first statement of the day. “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.”
Other top Democrats have issued similar scathing rebukes of the leaked draft.
“The Supreme Court is poised to inflict the greatest restriction of rights in the past fifty years — not just on women but on all Americans,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote in a joint statement. “The Republican-appointed Justices’ reported votes to overturn Roe v. Wade would go down as an abomination, one of the worst and most damaging decisions in modern history.”
“Several of these conservative Justices, who are in no way accountable to the American people, have lied to the United States Senate, ripped up the Constitution and defiled both precedent and the Supreme Court’s reputation — all at the expense of tens of millions of women who could soon be stripped of their bodily autonomy and the constitutional rights they’ve relied on for half a century,” they continued. “The party of Lincoln and Eisenhower has now completely devolved into the party of Trump.”
Several Democratic lawmakers have also escalated calls for packing the Supreme Court, a subject that a Biden administration review could not return a verdict on last year, and eliminating the filibuster to pass legislation codifying Roe.
He declined to comment on the possibility of changing Senate rules but vowed to sign any abortion access legislation into law should it be passed by Congress.
Republicans, on the other hand, have chosen to focus on the act of leaking the opinion itself.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) called the leak in an interview an “unprecedented breach of the court’s confidentiality” and an “attempt by the Left to try and change the outcome in this case and corrupt the process, and the court must not allow that to happen.“
“This lawless action should be investigated and punished as fully as possible. The chief justice must get to the bottom of it, and the Department of Justice must pursue criminal charges if applicable,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) added in a floor speech Tuesday morning. “All nine justices should tune out the bad-faith noise and feel totally free to do their jobs, following the facts and the law where they lead.”
Shortly after McConnell’s speech, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts ordered an investigation into the leak.
“We at the Court are blessed to have a workforce — permanent employees and law clerks alike — intensely loyal to the institution and dedicated to the rule of law. Court employees have an exemplary and important tradition of respecting the confidentiality of the judicial process and upholding the trust of the Court,” he wrote. “This was a singular and egregious breach of that trust that is an affront to the Court and the community of public servants who work here.”