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ERLC objects to Biden effort to counter court ruling

Baptist Press photo

WASHINGTON (BP)—Efforts by the Biden administration and congressional Democrats to counteract on multiple fronts the effect of the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision have drawn a robust objection from the Southern Baptist Convention’s ethics entity.

President Biden condemned again Thursday (June 30) the high court’s 5-4 opinion that overruled the 1973 decision that legalized abortion throughout the country, something he also did June 24 on the same day the ruling was issued. The decision in Dobbs v. Mississippi Women’s Health Organization returned abortion policy to the states, where it had been before the watershed Roe opinion.

In a news conference Thursday at the NATO Summit in Spain, Biden described the ruling as “outrageous” and called for Congress to codify Roe into law through an exception to the Senate’s filibuster rule, which requires 60 votes to end debate and take floor action on legislation. Such a rule change would enable consideration and passage of a bill with only a majority in support.

Biden also repeated his June 24 request for voters to elect enough senators and representatives to codify abortion rights in law. He had previously said “Roe is on the ballot” in November.

The president already had announced after the Supreme Court’s ruling his administration would protect interstate travel for abortions and access to drugs that end the lives of preborn children. The administration also established a new website that helps women find an abortion provider and obtain funds to pay for such a procedure.

Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress urged the president to take more decisive action for abortion access. Some have called for Biden to declare a “public health emergency.” Some have promoted a legislative effort to “crack down” on pro-life pregnancy resource centers.

Brent Leatherwood, acting president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), told Baptist Press, “These actions and proposals constitute an effort to completely obliterate this nation’s bipartisan consensus, that has held for years, that taxpayer resources should not go to the promotion and promulgation of abortion. Implementing them would assault the consciences of millions of Americans who believe each person, born and preborn, is made in the image of God and worthy of protection.

“In the wake of the monumental Dobbs decision, our nation’s leaders should come together and institute a true culture of life that saves lives, supports mothers and works for the flourishing of families,” he said in written comments. “Instead, these policies represent a commitment to an extreme view that continues to treat our most vulnerable neighbors as disposable inconveniences.”

Regarding Biden’s call to suspend the filibuster to codify abortion rights, Leatherwood said, “Just as our nation enshrined protections for minority rights in our Constitution, the filibuster has served as a procedural safeguard of the minority perspective in the U.S. Senate. President Biden, who served so many years in the Senate, uniquely understands that, which makes this call for an exception all the more disheartening.

“[A]n exception here will render the filibuster meaningless for all future debates where the majority wants to force its will whenever it feels it necessary, an effect that will have devastating consequences for American politics,” he said. “Governing and legislating are challenging, but bulldozing over viewpoints one disagrees with is no way to make policy for our nation.”

During his June 24 speech, Biden announced:

— His administration will fight any state or local official who seeks to prevent women from traveling from a state in which abortion is prohibited to another state for an abortion.

— He is directing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to work to protect access by women to medical/chemical abortions.

No states have yet enacted bans on interstate travel for abortions, but The Washington Post reported Wednesday (June 29) some state legislators are considering such proposals. More than half of the states, however, have already approved restrictions that either prohibit the distribution of abortion pills by means of telemedicine appointments or required at least one in-person visit, according to Stateline, a publication of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Three states – Kentucky, South Dakota and Tennessee – have enacted restrictions on medical/chemical abortions in 2022. The new laws in Kentucky and South Dakota ban the mailing of abortion pills. In 2020, 54 percent of all abortions in the United States were by abortion pills.

A new website established by HHS provides information on abortion access, insurance coverage of the procedure and medical/chemical abortions. It also offers a link to a website for finding abortion providers, receiving funding to pay for the procedure and learning about the legal status in each state.

Biden charged the court’s conservative majority June 24 with making the United States “an outlier among developed nations in the world.”

The United States, however, had one of the most permissive abortion policies in the world under Roe. Combined with the Doe v. Bolton companion decision released the same day in 1973, Roe permitted abortion throughout pregnancy.

A 2021 study by the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute showed 47 of 50 European countries prohibit elective abortions or restrict them to 15 weeks or earlier. The United States reportedly was one of only six countries, including China and North Korea, that permitted elective abortions after 20 weeks gestation.

Biden’s response to the overturning of Roe has elicited calls from some congressional Democrats for stronger steps.

In a June 25 letter, 30 Democratic senators urged the president “to use the full force of the federal government” to safeguard abortion access. They urged him “to take every step available to your Administration, across federal agencies,” to protect abortion rights.

Some Democrats in Congress have proposed the administration open abortion clinics on federal lands in conservative states, Axios reported.

Though she described the recommendation as “well-intentioned,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said June 28 an agreement with Native American tribes to use their land for abortion clinics would involve “dangerous ramifications.”

“[I]n states where abortion is now illegal, women and providers who are not federal employees, as you look at the federal land, could potentially be prosecuted,” she told reporters, according to Axios.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and other members of Congress introduced the Stop Anti-abortion Disinformation Act the day before the Supreme Court’s ruling. The bill calls for the Federal Trade Commission to implement rules to ban what they describe as “deceptive or misleading advertising” by pregnancy resource centers regarding abortion services.

Among the organizations that have endorsed the proposal are leading abortion rights advocates, including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, NARAL Pro-choice America and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

In the past, abortion rights supporters have promoted other attempts to discredit pregnancy resource centers, which provide a variety of services – sometimes including medical care – without charge to women.

With the overruling of Roe, 26 states are certain or likely to prohibit abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization affiliated with the abortion rights movement.