Joe Biden

Remarks on the United States Supreme Court Decision To Overturn Roe v. Wade

June 24, 2022

The President. Today is a—it's not hyperbole to suggest a very solemn moment. Today the Supreme Court of the United States expressly took away a constitutional right from the American people that it had already recognized.

They didn't limit it. They simply took it away. That's never been done to a right so important to so many Americans. But they did it. It's a sad day for the Court and for the country.

Fifty years ago, Roe v. Wade was decided and has been the law of the land since then. This landmark case protected a woman's right to choose, her right to make intensely personal decisions with her doctor, free from the—from interference of politics.

It reaffirmed basic principles of equality: that women have the power to control their own destiny. And it reinforced the fundamental right of privacy—the right of each of us to choose how to live our lives. Now, with Roe gone, let's be very clear: The health and life of women in this Nation are now at risk.

As chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as Vice President and now as President of the United States, I've studied this case carefully. I've overseen more Supreme Court confirmations than anyone today, where this case was always discussed.

I believe Roe v. Wade was the correct decision as a matter of constitutional law, an application of the fundamental right to privacy and liberty in matters of family and personal autonomy.

It was a decision on a complex matter that drew a careful balance between a woman's right to choose earlier in her pregnancy and the State's ability to regulate later in her pregnancy. A decision with broad national consensus that most Americans of faiths and backgrounds found acceptable and that had been the law of the land for most of the lifetime of Americans today.

And it was a constitutional principle upheld by Justices appointed by Democrat and Republican Presidents alike. Roe v. Wade was a 7-to-2 decision written by a Justice appointed by a Republican President, Richard Nixon. In the five decades that followed Roe v. Wade, Justices appointed by Republican Presidents—from Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan, George W. Bush [George H.W. Bush]*—were among the Justices who voted to uphold the principles set forth in Roe v. Wade.

It was three Justices named by one President—Donald Trump—who were the core of today's decision to upend the scales of justice and eliminate a fundamental right for women in this country. Make no mistake: This decision is the culmination of a deliberate effort over decades to upset the balance of our law. It's a realization of an extreme ideology and a tragic error by the Supreme Court, in my view.

The Court has done what it has never done before: expressly take away a constitutional right that is so fundamental to so many Americans that had already been recognized. The Court's decision to do so will have real and immediate consequences. State laws banning abortion are automatically taking effect today, jeopardizing the health of millions of women, some without exceptions.

So extreme that women could be punished for protecting their health. So extreme that women and girls who are forced to bear their rapist's child—of the child of consequence. It's a—it just stuns me. So extreme that doctors will be criminalized for fulfilling their duty to care. Imagine having—a young woman having to—carry the child of incest—as a consequence of incest. No option.

Too often the case that poor women are going to be hit the hardest. It's cruel.

In fact, the Court laid out State laws criminalizing abortion that go back to the 1800s—[laughter]—as a rationale, the Court literally taking America back 150 years.

This a sad day for the country, in my view, but it doesn't mean the fight's over.

Let me be very clear and unambiguous: The only way we can secure a woman's right to choose and the balance that existed is for Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade as Federal law.

No executive action from the President can do that. And if Congress, as it appears, lacks the vote—the votes to do that now, voters need to make their voices heard. This fall, we must elect more Senators and Representatives who will codify a woman's right to choose into Federal law once again, elect more State leaders to protect this right at the local level.

We need to restore the protections of Roe as law of the land. We need to elect officials who will do that. This fall, Roe is on the ballot. Personal freedoms are on the ballot. The right to privacy, liberty, equality, they're all on the ballot.

Until then, I will do all in my power to protect a woman's right in States where they will face the consequences of today's decision. While the Court's decision casts a dark shadow over a large swath of the land, many States in this country still recognize a woman's right to choose.

So if a woman lives in a State that restricts abortion, the Supreme Court's decision does not prevent her from traveling from her home State to the State that allows it. It does not prevent a doctor in that State—in that State—from treating her.

As the Attorney General has made clear, women must remain free to travel safely to another State to seek the care they need. And my administration will defend that bedrock right.

If any State or local official, high or low, tries to interfere with a woman's exercising her basic right to travel, I will do everything in my power to fight that deeply un-American attack.

My administration will also protect a woman's access to medications that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration—the FDA—like contraception, which is essential for preventative health care; mifepristone, which the FDA approved 20 years ago to safely end early pregnancies and is commonly used to treat miscarriages.

Some States are saying that they'll try to ban or severely restrict access to these medications. But extremist Governors and State legislators who are looking to block the mail or search a person's medicine cabinet or control a woman's actions by tracking data on her apps she uses are wrong and extreme and out of touch with the majority of Americans.

The American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists wrote to me and Vice President Harris stressing that these laws are not based on—are not based on evidence and asking us to act to protect access to care. They say by limiting access to these medicines, maternal mortality will climb in America. That's what they say.

Today I'm directing the Department of Health and Human Services to take steps to ensure these critical medications are available to the fullest extent possible and that politicians cannot interfere in the decisions that should be made between a woman and her doctor. And my administration will remain vigilant as the implications of this decision play out.

I've warned about how this decision risks the broader right to privacy for everyone. That's because Roe recognized the fundamental right to privacy that has served as the basis for so many more rights that we have come to take—we've come to take for granted that are ingrained in the fabric of this country: the right to make the best decisions for your health; the right to use birth control—a married couple—in the privacy of their bedroom, for God's sake; the right to marry the person you love.

Now, Justice Thomas said as much today. He explicitly called to reconsider the right of marriage equality, the right of couples to make their choices on contraception. This is an extreme and dangerous path the Court is now taking us on.

Let me close with two points. First, I call on everyone, no matter how deeply they care about this decision, to keep all protests peaceful. Peaceful, peaceful, peaceful. No intimidation. Violence is never acceptable. Threats and intimidation are not speech. We must stand against violence in any form regardless of your rationale.

Second, I know so many of us are frustrated and disillusioned that the Court has taken something away that's so fundamental. I know so many women are now going to face incredibly difficult situations. I hear you. I support you. I stand with you.

The consequences and the consensus of the American people—core principles of equality, liberty, dignity, and the stability of the rule of law—demand that Roe should not have been overturned.

With this decision, the conservative majority of the Supreme Court shows how extreme it is, how far removed they are from the majority of this country. They have made the United States an outlier among developed nations in the world. But this decision must not be the final word.

My administration will use all of its appropriate lawful powers. But Congress must act. And with your vote, you can act. You can have the final word. This is not over.

Thank you very much. I'll have more to say on this in weeks to come. Thank you.

Q. Mr. President, do you still have confidence in this Court?

[At this point, several reporters began asking questions at once.]

Q. Do you still have confidence in——

NOTE: The President spoke at 12:37 p.m. in the Cross Hall at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Supreme Court Associate Justices Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.

* White House correction.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks on the United States Supreme Court Decision To Overturn Roe v. Wade Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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