President Joe Biden on Thursday announced plans to launch a “whole-of-government effort” in response to the Supreme Court’s denial of an emergency request to block a Texas law that took effect Wednesday banning abortions performed after six weeks of pregnancy.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling overnight 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 statement released Thursday.
The new law in Texas allows private citizens to sue anyone seeking or providing an abortion after six weeks, or aiding anyone in getting the procedure. Biden said the decision to allow private citizens to carry out the law “unleashes unconstitutional chaos and empowers self-anointed enforcers to have devastating impacts.”
“Complete strangers will now be empowered to inject themselves in the most private and personal health decisions faced by women,” he 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.”
The president noted that the dissent by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan “all demonstrate the error of the Court’s action here powerfully.”
Sotomayor, in her dissent, said the Texas bill is “clearly unconstitutional,” asserting that some of the justices chose to “bury their heads in the sand.”
The five conservative justices in the majority wrote that the petitioners raised “serious questions” about the constitutionality of the Texas law but argued the request didn’t meet certain procedural thresholds. The justices also noted that they haven’t made a decision on the merits of the law.
Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s liberal bloc, and Biden in his statement reiterated Roberts’ assertion that action by the Supreme Court was not a final ruling on Roe v Wade’s future but made clear that the decision requires “an immediate response.”
The Gender Policy Council, created by Biden near the onset of his term, will work with the Office of the White House Counsel to respond to the decision, Biden said.
“I am directing that Council and the Office of the White House Counsel to launch a whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision, looking specifically to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice to see what steps the Federal Government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe, and what legal tools we have to insulate women and providers from the impact of Texas’ bizarre scheme of outsourced enforcement to private parties.”