President Joe Biden promised to codify Roe v. Wade into law if Democrats manage to add Senate seats and hold control of the House of Representatives in November, making it the first bill he would send to the new Congress.
Biden made the pledge at a Democratic National Committee event Tuesday afternoon at The Howard theater in Washington. On a stage surrounded by pro-choice supporters and a huge banner that read “Restore Roe,” the president promised to sign the legislation on Jan. 22, 2023 — the 50th anniversary of the original Roe decision.
“Here’s the promise I make to you and the American people: The first bill I will send to the Congress will be to codify Roe v. Wade,” Biden said. “And when Congress passes it, I will sign it in January, 50 years after Roe was first decided to be the law of the land.”
“If you do your part and vote Democratic leaders in Congress, I promise you we’ll do our part. I’ll do mine part. With your support, I’ll sign a law codifying Roe in January,” he added.
The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed the right to an abortion in the United States, earlier this year in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In the months since, nearly half of the 50 states have either banned abortion or are set to do so shortly.
The backlash to the Dobbs decision dramatically changed Democrats’ political fortunes, stanching what appeared to be a burgeoning Republican wave election. In his speech, Biden emphasized that Republicans want to criminally prosecute doctors who perform abortion and pass a national abortion ban.
“It’s this simple: If anti-choice Republicans win control of Congress, they will pass a national ban on abortion. If Democrats win, they will defend Roe and the president will sign the Women’s Health Protection Act,” NARAL Pro-Choice America President Mini Timmaraju said in a Tuesday statement.
The Women’s Health Protection Act is federal legislation that aims to protect the right to access legal abortion care across the country by providing safeguards against state bans and medically unnecessary hurdles ― effectively codifying Roe. Congress has voted on the bill multiple times, but it twice died by filibuster in the Senate.
“Extremist GOP lawmakers are the number one threat to our reproductive freedom, and they aim to take us back in time. That’s not the America we want for our children, and that’s not the America this nation elected Joe Biden to deliver,” added Timmaraju. “We thank the president for his leadership as we fight to restore the right to abortion and protect reproductive freedom.”
The intransigence of Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on changing the terms of the Senate filibuster has stymied Democratic efforts to codify the right to abortion after the Dobbs decision, meaning Democrats would have to pick up two seats in that chamber to make Biden’s pledge a reality.
Holding the House might be the tougher task. Political forecasters still consider Republicans heavy favorites to win control of the chamber.