Biden Set to Brainstorm Abortion Response With Democratic Governors

(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden is set to discuss options for protecting women’s access to abortion with a group of Democratic governors Friday as he faces increasing pressure to respond more forcefully to the Supreme Court’s ruling eliminating the constitutional right to the procedure. 

“I’m going to be talking to the governors as to what actions they think I should be taking,” Biden told reporters Thursday at the conclusion of a NATO summit in Madrid, adding that he would “have announcements to make then” about his next steps.

The Friday afternoon virtual meeting with the governors of seven states comes a week after the high court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. Biden and White House officials have repeatedly stressed there’s little they can do unless more lawmakers who support abortion rights are elected to Congress. 

In addition to Governor Kathy Hochul of New York, Ned Lamont of Connecticut, Gavin Newsom of California, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, Jay Inslee of Wisconsin and Kate Brown of Oregon will participate in Friday’s session. Each moved swiftly after the court’s ruling to safeguard women’s reproductive health, a White House official said. 

Hochul is convening an extraordinary session of the state’s legislature in Albany on Friday to consider enshrining abortion access in the state’s constitution — and to enact a package of gun safety measures after the Supreme Court struck down New York’s concealed-carry law last month.

Lujan Grisham has signed an executive order aimed at maintaining abortion access and protecting providers from attempts by other states to pursue civil or criminal charges. Last year, New Mexico repealed a 1969 law that would have criminalized abortion if Roe v. Wade was overturned.

At least 22 states have fully outlawed or significantly restricted access to abortion, with others likely to move quickly in that direction after the court’s ruling. 

Read more: Americans in 26 States Will Have to Travel 552 Miles For Abortions

The Democratic party is hoping outrage against the court’s decision, evident in nationwide protests, will prompt voters to back candidates who support abortion rights in the November midterms. But there’s also the risk that women and liberal voters will be discouraged from turning out if they deem Biden’s response weak. 

Incremental steps the administration has taken in response to the ruling include new guidance the Department of Health and Human Services issued Wednesday telling health care providers they are not required to — and often legally prohibited from — disclosing private health care information related to abortion and other sexual and reproductive health care, including to law enforcement.

Separately, the White House is preparing a letter from Biden asking the Federal Trade Commission to protect women’s privacy when they seek information about or disclose personal data related to reproductive health care.

On Thursday, Biden said he would support adding exceptions to the Senate’s filibuster rule to pass legislation codifying abortion access and privacy rights. 

But two key Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, remain opposed to eliminating or carving out an exception to the Senate’s filibuster rule, which allows Republicans to block most legislation they oppose with half the votes of the 100-seat chamber. Their opposition effectively eliminates that option in the current Senate. 

Vice President Kamala Harris and other administration officials also have met with nearly a dozen state attorneys general. Harris, who previously served as California’s attorney general, has sought to identify the reach of states’ top law enforcement officials to act to protect reproductive rights. 

Progressive stalwarts such as Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez want Biden to take dramatic action to ensure access to abortion across the country, even if it means court challenges and legislative battles that the White House would almost surely lose. 

Read more: Progressives Demand Biden Rev Up Base With All-Out Abortion Push

Some have suggested providing abortions to the public on federal property in states that ban the procedure — a proposal the White House has dismissed as untenable. Progressives also want Biden to overhaul the Supreme Court, either by adding justices or imposing term limits on them or both.

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