President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris highlighted the GOP’s push to roll back access to abortion in remarks Tuesday, 100 days since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade’s constitutional right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.
“Today, extremist so-called leaders are attacking the freedom and liberty of millions of women at a state level. In Arizona for example a judge recently upheld an 1864 — that’s not a statute, that’s the year — 1864 abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest,” Harris said, noting a similar ban from 1849 in Wisconsin. “That was 173 years ago. And make note that at that time women also did not have the right to vote.”
More than a dozen Republican-led states — most of which do not allow for exceptions for rape or incest — have effectively banned abortions since the court’s Dobbs v. Jackson ruling that gave that authority back to the states. The changes have affected nearly 30 million women of reproductive age, 22 million of whom cannot access abortion after six weeks, according to the White House.
“Extreme abortion bans are having consequences that extend beyond abortion, including reports of women being denied access to necessary prescriptions and contraception at pharmacies and on college campuses,” Jennifer Klein, director of the White House Gender Policy Council, wrote in a memo released ahead of Biden’s meeting with his Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at the event, rolling out new guidelines from the Department of Education reminding universities of their requirements to protect access to reproductive health-care as well as $6 million in new grants to protect and expand reproductive services, according to Klein’s memo.
Biden cited an incident at the University of Idaho where staff were advised to stop offering birth control after a sweeping abortion ban was enacted across the state as the impetus for the new guidelines.
“Folks, what century are we in? What are we doing? I respect everyone’s personal decision to make on this but my Lord, we’re talking about contraception here, it shouldn’t be that controversial,” Biden said.
He said he directed Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to look into the incident.
“Today I want to be clear to college leaders in America: Access to contraception should not be in question,” Cardona said. “And access to health care, including reproductive health care, is critical to the wellbeing and success of our nation’s students. If you are committed to students’ success, you must be committed to students’ health.”
The meeting comes a month out from the midterm elections where Democrats are at risk of losing control of one or both houses of Congress. The move sheds a spotlight on the administration’s work on abortion access and is seen as giving a boost to candidates locked in tight races.
Some Republicans in Congress are looking to further restrict abortion access. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina recently proposed a national abortion ban that would have the penalty of jail time for doctors who perform them.