WASHINGTON (BP) – Pro-life leaders expressed their strong objection to President Biden’s promise Tuesday (Oct. 18) to make enshrining Roe v. Wade in law his legislative priority if Democrats control Congress in January.
If voters elect more Democrats to the U.S. Senate and keep his party in the majority in the House of Representatives, the “first bill” he will send to Congress will be “to codify Roe v. Wade,” Biden said in a speech dedicated to the abortion issue. If Congress approves the legislation, the president said he will sign it into law in January, 50 years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe ruling legalized abortion nationwide.
Biden’s pledge is the latest evidence of the devotion of his administration and party to protect expansive abortion rights, especially in the wake of the high court’s June opinion that overruled Roe and returned abortion regulation to the states.
“The ability to take innocent life should not be part of anyone’s governing agenda,” said Brent Leatherwood, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). “Despite the prevailing narrative, Americans do not support the abortion regime and its abortion-on-demand vision.
“Instead of catering to those extremes, the president and whichever party controls Congress should work together to prioritize saving defenseless lives, serving mothers and helping ensure that families can be formed and flourish,” he told Baptist Press in written comments.
“Not only is that fertile ground for solutions that would speak to the vast majority of Americans, it would advance a vision consistent with our nation’s founding promise, namely that each person is guaranteed the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The Nov. 8 elections in the middle of his first term as president will determine whether Biden once again will have a Democratic Congress or whether he will face a Republican or divided legislature. Democrats have a 220-212 advantage in the House currently and control the Senate despite a 50-50 split between the parties.
In races for control of the Senate, some Democratic candidates have refused to name any limitation they would place on abortion, while some Republican candidates have been hesitant to offer a robust defense of abortion bans.
Biden has endorsed the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), an abortion rights bill that supporters of the proposal have described as a codification of the Roe opinion. The WHPA, however, would eclipse the 1973 ruling by prohibiting federal and state regulations of the procedure that were permitted by the Supreme Court under Roe.
Pro-life advocates have pointed out the WHPA would eliminate such pro-life protections as state bans on abortions based on the sex of the preborn baby and those after 20 weeks because of evidence the child feels pain by that point. It also would annul parental involvement laws, as well as longstanding bans on taxpayer funding of abortion and conscience protections for pro-life health care workers, they say.
Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, said the president’s “disingenuous and dangerous pledge to prioritize abortion over all the other issues facing this nation shows desperation about the mid-terms and a grave misunderstanding of mainstream America’s views on the issue of abortion.”
“No one, except people who will benefit financially, wants unregulated abortion through all nine months of pregnancy,” she told BP in written remarks. “To be clear, Biden is siding with big business and against women. He is helping prop up an industry that makes money from ending babies’ lives.”
The WHPA “would not protect women; it would allow providers to have unprecedented protections from government oversight, limitations and regulations and put the power in the hands of the people who stand to make a huge profit over deregulation,” Day said. “It is undemocratic and immoral.”
Day acknowledged Biden’s promise “should give pro-life Democrats in swing states a real challenge in voting. Do they want unregulated, unsafe abortion that is assured under a Democratic majority or do we want a chance for those mothers and babies by preserving the pro-life majority in the Senate?”
The House has passed the WHPA twice in this session of Congress, with Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas the lone Democrat to join Republicans in opposing the measure. The evenly divided Senate has already rejected the WHPA twice this year by refusing to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote. Senators voted against invoking cloture by 48-46 in February and 51-49 in May. The procedural move requires 60 votes to cut off debate so a vote on a bill can occur.
In addition to urging Congress to protect abortion rights in federal law, Biden has overseen a series of policy actions seeking to negate the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe.
He announced the day the Supreme Court overturned Roe that his administration would protect interstate travel for abortions and access to drugs that end the lives of preborn children. Since then, various federal departments have taken steps to promote access to abortion.
Messengers to this year’s Southern Baptist Convention in June passed a pro-life resolution – something they have done more than 20 times since 1980 – before the Supreme Court’s decision that urged the justices to overturn Roe and the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey opinion that affirmed it. In addition to encouraging increased pro-life ministry, the resolution also called for state legislatures to approve laws “that uphold the dignity and value of every human life, including both vulnerable women and children.”
About half of the 50 states already have laws or are expected to enact laws that prohibit abortion either throughout pregnancy or at a certain stage of pregnancy, although courts have blocked the enforcement of some.