WASHINGTON — President Biden denounced Texas’s new abortion law Friday as “almost un-American” and said it creates a “vigilante system” under which private citizens are empowered to police the ban.
Biden’s comments, in response to a reporter’s question at the White House, were his first public remarks on the matter. He has previously issued written statements decrying the law, which bans abortions as early as six weeks and allows anyone to file a lawsuit against any other person who has aided someone in obtaining an abortion, with the potential for a $10,000 payoff.
“I have been and continue to be a strong supporter of Roe v. Wade, No. 1,” Biden said Friday morning. “And the most pernicious thing about the Texas law, it sort of creates a vigilante system where people get rewards to go out and to — " He did not finish the thought.
He added that “it’s almost un-American, what we’re talking about,” emphasizing that he was referring to the Texas law and not to the broader debate over Roe. He notably did not use the word “abortion” in his remarks.
“I was told that there are possibilities within the existing law to have the Justice Department look and see whether there are things that can be done that can limit the independent action of individuals in enforcing . . . a state law,” Biden said. “I don’t know enough to give you an answer yet.”
Biden did use the word in other statements this week, sharply condemning the Texas law and the Supreme Court’s decision to let it stand. Even so, Biden, who is Catholic, has not made abortion a major issue, to the dismay of some abortion rights activists. One advocate, saying Biden has rarely even uttered the word, launched a website called DidBidenSayAbortionYet.org.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that Americans should “look at what the president does and his actions and what he fights for.”
Psaki said Biden has asked his Cabinet secretaries to take a government-wide look at how the administration could push back against the Texas law. The effort is being coordinated by the Gender Policy Council, a group Biden created in the White House to focus on women’s rights.
But the president has not announced any particular action, and Psaki could not say whether he backs the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill in Congress to create a statutory right for health-care professionals to provide abortions.
In his statement Thursday, Biden said that the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision not to block the Texas law “will be immediate and requires an immediate response.”
“One reason I became the first president in history to create a Gender Policy Council was to be prepared to react to such assaults on women’s rights,” Biden said.
He added that he was directing his administration to examine what steps the federal government can take “to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe, and what legal tools we have to insulate women and providers from the impact of Texas’ bizarre scheme of outsourced enforcement to private parties.”
The Gender Policy Council, the White House Counsel’s Office, and officials from other parts of the Biden administration held a meeting on the issue Friday morning “with women’s rights and reproductive health leaders,” the White House said in a statement.
“Leaders shared recommendations for steps the federal government can take to ensure that all people in the US, including in Texas, have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe and highlighted connections to racial equity, gender-based violence, and the maternal health crisis in the US,” the White House said.
Leaders of groups including the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Women’s Law Center, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project attended the meeting, according to the White House.