Biden vows to 'do all in my power' to protect abortion access after Supreme Court Roe ruling

Activists say Biden could try to use the FDA and Medicaid to push for abortion access.

ByAlexandra Hutzler and Anne Flaherty via ABCNews logo
Friday, June 24, 2022
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President Joe Biden said Friday that "it's a sad day for the court and the country" after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

WASHINGTON -- President Joe Biden spoke on the Supreme Court's decision Friday upending abortion rights, calling the ruling a "sad day for the court and for the country."

Biden also vowed to "do all in my power" to defend a woman's right to cross state lines to seek an abortion.

"Now with Roe gone, let's be very clear, the health and life of women across this nation are now at risk," he said from the White House.

He added that "the court has done what it's never done before -- expressly taking away a constitution right that is so fundamental to so many Americans," he said.

MORE: Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, transforming abortion rights in US

The court's conservative majority voted Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade as it upheld a Mississippi law that bans nearly all abortions past 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Justice Samuel Alito, who also authored the bombshell draft opinion leaked to the public earlier this year indicating this outcome, wrote in the opinion that Roe was "egregiously wrong from the start."

"Abortion presents a profound moral question," Alito wrote. "The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. The Court overrules those decisions and returns that authority to the people and their elected representatives."

SEE ALSO: A state-by-state breakdown of where abortion stands in your state

Abortion rights activists previously told ABC News they believed Biden could employ the Food and Drug Administration and Medicaid to fill gaps in care.

But what can he do, really?

In recent weeks, dozens of abortion advocacy groups, lawyers, providers and lawmakers have huddled to pitch ideas that range from what advocates call creative to the seemingly far-fetched. The White House has met with many of these officials to hear them out, although it remains tight-lipped on where its legal strategy might be headed.

MORE: Options women have following Roe v. Wade being overturned

Could the government lease federal buildings and public lands to abortion clinics? Declare a public health emergency, and offer disaster relief money or health care grants to states anticipating an influx of patients?

What about federal travel vouchers for patients seeking health care in abortion-friendly states, or relaxed import rules for on abortion pills made overseas? Biden, some argue, also could say that banning abortion pills by mail -- as some states are moving to do -- violates rules on interstate commerce.

"We are all thinking creatively about what administrative solutions might exist," including increasing the availability of abortion pills, said Kimberly Inez McGuire, executive director of Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity who met with the White House in one of its "listening sessions."

"But in this specific moment, what I'm looking for from this administration is leadership."

SEE ALSO: Political history of Supreme Court abortion cases

Complicating much of the issue for the Biden administration are decades-long restrictions on federal spending legislation that prohibits the executive branch from spending money on most abortion services. That prohibition is unlikely to change so long as the Senate remains narrowly divided between Democrats and Republicans.

Still, abortion rights advocates say, every idea is on the table. Under Biden's control, they argue, are powerful institutions, including the Food and Drug Administration, which has approved access to the abortion pill by mail, and Medicaid, the government's insurance program for low-income families.

That means post-Roe, the United States will likely spend years embroiled in legal battles over abortion, as conservative states bump up against the power of the presidency.

Read the full court opinion here.

Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett voted to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.