Jennifer Shutt, New Jersey Monitor
President Joe Biden pledged Friday to hold the line against attempts to restrict reproductive rights and abortion access during a campaign rally with the country’s leading abortion rights organizations.
“The court got Roe right 50 years ago, and I believe Congress should restore the protections of Roe v. Wade once and for all,” said Biden, who is seeking reelection in 2024. “But we need your help.”
The rally was held the day before the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to end the nationwide, constitutional right to an abortion that stood for nearly 50 years.
That ruling, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, said “the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.”
Speaking from the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., Biden said Republicans are likely to advance a nationwide ban on abortion if they gain control of Congress and the White House during the 2024 elections.
“Make no mistake this election is about freedom on the ballot,” Biden said.
Ahead of his speech, NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund endorsed Biden’s reelection campaign. EMILY’s List, which supports female politicians who back reproductive rights, endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris.
Harris said during the rally that reproductive rights and access to abortion are based on “one of the most important principles upon which our nation was founded.”
“The importance of freedom … to make decisions about one’s own life, one’s own body. The freedom to be free from government interference when it comes to one’s private decisions — decisions that are about heart and home,” Harris said.
Before the campaign event on Friday, Biden signed an executive order aimed at increasing access to and affordability of contraception.
The move calls on several federal agencies to “consider new guidance” for private health insurance companies, which are required to provide contraception at no cost under the 2010 health care law, or the Affordable Care Act.
The executive order calls on the secretary of Health and Human Services to consider new guidance for Medicare and Medicaid that would expand access to contraception.
Biden also called on the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments as well as the Office of Personnel Management “to consider new actions to ensure robust coverage of contraception for Service members, veterans, and Federal employees and ensure that they and their families understand how to access these benefits.”
The executive order doesn’t include a timeline for when the White House would like those federal agencies to issue guidance that could expand access to and affordability of contraception.
Clare Coleman, president and CEO of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, said in a written statement that the organization is “dismayed that this order does not require tangible steps to protect access and does not include any firm deadlines.”
“For example, it is imperative that the administration explicitly enforce Medicaid’s free choice of provider protection; however, today’s executive order is silent on states’ ignoring federal law,” Coleman said, referring to a section of Medicaid law that allows patients to obtain medical services from any willing and qualified provider. “This blatant violation exacerbates an already dire health care access problem, and it is within the power of this administration to do something about it.”
The NFPRHA, Coleman said, urges “the White House to do all it can to confront the growing threats to contraception.”
Democrats in Congress have reintroduced a bill that would guarantee access to contraception.
The legislation is designed to protect access to birth control in the event the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn the cases that extended constitutional privacy rights to those decisions.
That legislation, however, is unlikely to move through the divided Congress.
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