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Biden to Vow to Make Codifying “Roe” First Priority If Democrats Win Congress

Democrats would have to keep control of the House and gain at least two seats in the Senate to pass an abortion bill.

President Joe Biden disembarks Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on October 17, 2022.

President Joe Biden plans to vow that, if Democrats win big in the midterms, the first bill he will send to the next session of Congress will codify abortion rights afforded under Roe v. Wade, according to a Democratic official.

Biden is scheduled Tuesday to speak before the Democratic National Committee, and plans to emphasize abortion rights as a top priority for the party. If Democrats keep control of the House and add two seats to Senate, then he will aim to sign the abortion rights bill into law around the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court ruling in late January, according to the source familiar with his anticipated speech.

The president is also expected to criticize Republicans in his speech, warning about their efforts to pass a nationwide abortion ban if they take control of Congress.

A GOP takeover would have disastrous consequences for reproductive rights, potentially criminalizing huge swaths of abortion providers or patients and likely raising the maternal death rate.

The speech is aimed at motivating voters passionate about abortion rights to cast a ballot in this year’s elections. Abortion bans are unpopular among the public, and polls have shown that voters rank abortion as a top issue in the election and say that it is a key issue driving them to vote.

Democrats have honed in on campaigning around abortion rights in this election, promising voters to protect abortion rights federally and overrule states’ dangerous abortion bans if they win.

Abortion advocates have criticized Democrats and Biden for campaigning on abortion rights, however, saying that they have not done enough with the power that they currently have to protect abortion seekers and other people impacted by bans. Some lawmakers have suggested, for instance, that Biden could declare a public health emergency over the abortion bans to free up resources and highlight the importance of the issue.

Democrats have tried to pass legislation in recent months to create similar federal protections for abortion as Roe had previously afforded. In July, shortly after far right Supreme Court justices overturned Roe, the House passed a bill that would have protected abortion rights federally, known as the Women’s Health Protection Act.

But Democrats’ efforts have been stymied by pro-filibuster conservative Democrats Senators Joe Manchin (West Virginia) and Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona), who oppose the use of a filibuster carveout for abortion rights — an idea that Biden has endorsed. Congressional Republicans are uniformly opposed to codifying abortion rights.

Without support from Congress, Biden has signed executive actions aimed at protecting people who travel across state lines to obtain an abortion and protect access to medications and potentially increasing access for those who need to travel out of state to get an abortion.

So far, over a dozen states have banned or restricted abortions, with other bans pending court challenges or being considered by state legislatures.

These bans have led to horrifying experiences for many people. Child incest victims have been forced to travel out of state for abortions. Other people have been denied necessary medications because they may cause birth defects or may contain abortifacients. Cancer patients, for instance, have been denied chemotherapy at least one state with an abortion ban, forcing pregnant patients to travel to a different state to obtain an abortion before starting cancer treatments.

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