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Biden condemns Supreme Court ruling on Texas abortion law as ‘unprecedented assault’ on women’s rights


An abortion rights activist holds placards outside of the US Supreme Court before the Court struck down a Texas law placing restrictions on abortion clinics on June 27, 2016 in Washington, DC.

Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Thursday blasted the Supreme Court justices who rejected an effort by abortion-rights advocates to stop Texas’ restrictive abortion law from taking effect.

Biden also directed White House legal and policy officials to respond to the court’s decision by looking into ways for federal agencies to “ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by [Roe v. Wade.]

The overnight ruling by five of the high court’s conservatives, including all three of former President Donald Trump‘s appointees, “is an unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights under Roe v. Wade, which has been the law of the land for almost fifty years,” Biden said in a searing statement.

The law bans most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy — before most women have even discovered they are pregnant — and empowers private citizens to sue anyone who “aids and abets” in the procedures, among other rules.

In doing so, the law “unleashes unconstitutional chaos and empowers self-anointed enforcers to have devastating impacts,” Biden said.

“This law is so extreme it does not even allow for exceptions in the case of rape or incest,” Biden’s statement said. “And it not only empowers complete strangers to inject themselves into the most private of decisions made by a woman–it actually incentivizes them to do so with the prospect of $10,000 if they win their case.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a statement later Thursday morning condemned the “cowardly, dark-of-night decision to uphold a flagrantly unconstitutional assault on women’s rights and health.”

Pelosi vowed that her chamber will bring the Women’s Health Protection Act “to enshrine into law reproductive health care for all women across America” when Congress returns from recess.

The president and Pelosi both criticized the majority’s decision to issue its brief but consequential opinion on the court’s “shadow docket,” without having heard oral arguments from the parties in the case.

“For the majority to do this without a hearing, without the benefit of an opinion from a court below, and without due consideration of the issues, insults the rule of law and the rights of all Americans to seek redress from our courts,” the president said.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said that the Department of Justice is also “evaluating all options to protect the constitutional rights of women, including access to an abortion.”

The five conservatives — Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — wrote that their order “is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas’s law.”

Rather, they ruled that the petitioners, a group of abortion providers and abortion-rights advocates, had not met their burden on key procedural questions in the case.

Chief Justice John Roberts, who joined liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer in dissent, wrote that the Texas law is “not only unusual, but unprecedented.”

He noted that the intent of giving citizens the power to sue abortionists “appears to be to insulate the State from responsibility for implementing and enforcing the regulatory regime.”

Other states have attempted to enact “heartbeat” bills banning abortion, but judges have struck down those efforts for violating the protections established by Roe.

Sotomayor, whose fiery dissent called the majority order “stunning,” accused the Texas legislature of attempting to “circumvent” constitutional obstacles by effectively deputizing its citizens as “bounty hunters.”

“Today, the Court finally tells the Nation that it declined to act because, in short, the State’s gambit worked,” she wrote. “This is untenable. It cannot be the case that a State can evade federal judicial scrutiny by outsourcing the enforcement of unconstitutional laws to its citizenry.”

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