Biden promises abortion rights law
New legislation top priority for US president in 2023
Published: Oct 19, 2022 11:04 PM
US President Joe Biden vowed on Tuesday to make a law enshrining nationwide abortion rights his top priority if Democrats win their uphill battle for Congress in looming midterm elections.

Biden's speech marked a newly intensified push by the White House to lift the party ahead of November 8, when Democrats hope to defy historical trends by retaining their razor-thin control of Congress.

Midterm votes typically see the party in the White House punished, and in 2022 the Democrats face discontent over inflation, an unpopular president, and fierce cultural wars around schools, gender issues and abortion.

In abortion, however, Biden sees a potential game changer, with anger seething over the Supreme Court's shock decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the ruling from half a century ago that enshrined access to abortions nationwide.

"Women all across the country, starting in my house, lost a fundamental right," Biden said in a speech in Washington DC.

Citing the "chaos and the heartache" for women seeking to terminate pregnancies, Biden said that in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling abortion bans had now been put in place by Republicans in 16 states, home to 26.5 million women.

And he cast the election as setting the stage for a momentous fight in 2023 in the new Congress.

If Republicans win, any attempt to pass a national abortion ban will be stopped at his desk, Biden said. "I'll veto it."

If Democrats hold on, the priority would be a national abortion rights law, effectively overturning the Supreme Court ruling.

"The first bill I'll send to Congress will be to codify Roe v. Wade," Biden said, calling this a "promise."

"I'll sign it in January, 50 years after Roe was first decided the law of the land."

The White House would not say how Biden envisions details of the law and whether he would support any kind of restrictions on abortion.

"It should be something that is decided between a woman and her doctor, her family - not politicians," Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

There's no questioning the passion swirling around abortion on the political stage.

Roe v. Wade made the procedure legal everywhere, while the Supreme Court decision handed power fully back to individual state governments, prompting Republican leaderships across the country to swiftly move to impose restrictions or bans, in line with years of "right to life" campaigning.