President Joe Biden said the word “abortion” for the first time in his entire presidency on Tuesday morning.
“If this decision holds, it’s really quite a radical decision. ... It basically says all the decisions you make in your private life, who you marry, whether or not you decide to conceive a child or not, whether or not you can have an abortion, and a range of other decisions,” the president told reporters on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, CNN reporter Kevin Liptak first reported.
“Does this mean that in Florida they can decide to pass a law saying that same-sex marriage is not permissible, it’s against the law in Florida? ... It’s a fundamental shift in American jurisprudence,” Biden added.
Biden was reacting to the Supreme Court draft opinion in the upcoming Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, which was leaked and published by Politico on Monday night.
“It concerns me a great deal that, after 50 years, we’re going to decide that a woman doesn’t have the right to choose. But even more equally profound is the rationale used ― and it would mean that every other decision relating to the notion of privacy is thrown into question,” he added, according to ABC News.
“The idea that we’re going to make a judgment that is going to say that no one can make the judgment to choose to abort a child, based on a decision by the Supreme Court, I think goes way overboard,” Biden said.
The Dobbs case centers on a 15-week abortion ban out of Mississippi that threatens to overturn or gut Roe. According to the leaked draft decision, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court is poised to fully overturn Roe and revert power back to the states. If that happens, 26 states are likely or almost certain to ban abortion immediately.
Biden’s comments are newsworthy because the Democratic president has used the word “abortion” only three times as president, and only in written remarks. The first time was 224 days into his presidency, when the White House published two written statements on Texas’ six-week abortion ban. The second took place more recently when he commemorated Women’s History Month in a written statement, acknowledging that “the constitutional right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade is facing an unprecedented assault.”
The president also released a statement on Tuesday morning following the leaked opinion that included his third written reference to abortion.
The current opinion is just a draft, and justices can change their votes any point. But a leaked opinion before publicly announcing a decision is unprecedented, and will likely have a ripple effect on the next steps for both abortion opponents and pro-choice groups.
Many abortion rights advocates and pro-choice lawmakers told HuffPost in February that they were deeply concerned about Biden’s apparent hesitance to vocally advocate for abortion. Last month, over 1,000 people who provide or have had abortions wrote an open letter to Biden urging him to talk about abortion and use his power as president to protect access to the procedure.