Joe Biden harshly condemned the Supreme Court for overturning Roe v. Wade.
Biden was also blunt in saying that only Congress has the power to restore a federal right to an abortion.
"The health and life of women in this nation are now at risk," the president said.
President Joe Biden called Friday a "sad day" for the nation as he vowed that his administration would do everything it can to protect women in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and ending the federal right to an abortion.
"With this decision, the conservative majority of the Supreme Court shows how extreme it is, how far removed they are from the majority of the country," Biden said during a hastily arranged national address after the decision was announced. "But this decision must not be the final word."
The president offered a grim assessment of a post-Roe US, saying "the health and life of women in this nation are now at risk." Biden said he was "stunned" at what he viewed as the callousness of a decision that would "literally take America back 150 years."
"State laws banning banning abortion are automatically taking effect today, jeopardizing the health of millions of women — some without exceptions," Biden said, discussing so-called trigger laws. "So extreme, that women could be punished for protecting their health. So extreme, that women and girls are force to bear their rapists' child."
Biden reiterated his call for Congress to act, though Democrats have failed to get legislation codifying a federal right to an abortion passed into law. The party holds slim majorities in both houses and would almost certainly fail to get around a Senate filibuster that effectively requires 10 Republican senators to support any such bill.
"Let me be very clear and unambiguous: The only way we can secure a women's right to choose, the balance that existed, is for Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade as federal law," he said. "No executive action from the president can do that."
Outlining the fights ahead, Biden made clear that his administration will aggressively defend Americans' rights to receive abortion pills through the mail or to travel across state lines to another area that has less restrictive laws. The court's ruling leaves those two major areas unaddressed for now, though conservative lawmakers throughout the nation are already preparing legislation that would curtail such access.
"Extremists state governors and legislators that are looking to block the mail, search a person's medicine cabinet, or control a woman's actions by tracking data on the apps she uses are wrong, extreme, and out of touch with a majority of Americans," Biden said, growing more animated as he voiced his disdain for such views.
In a sign of just how limited his power is to respond, Biden also repeated his party's call for potentially angry Americans to take their grievances with them to the polls this November.
"With your vote, you can act," Biden said. "You can have the final word. This is not over."
Biden also lit into Clarence Thomas by name, calling out the high court's longest-serving justice for writing in his concurring opinion that the Supreme Court should revisit its earlier decisions that protected rights to same-sex marriage and contraception.
"Justice Thomas said as much today, he explicitly called to reconsider the right of marriage quality, the right of couples to make their choices on contraception," Biden said. "This is an extreme and dangerous path the court is now taking us on."
In the face of fomenting outrage, Biden also pleaded with Americans to keep their protests peaceful. His words come as federal prosecutors continue to pursue charges against a man who plotted to assassinate Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
"Peaceful, peaceful, peaceful," Biden said. "No intimidation. Violence is never acceptable. Threats and intimidation are not speech. We must stand against violence in any form, regardless of your rationale."
Biden's struggle is partially due to his Catholic faith, which he has repeatedly said is one of the bedrocks of his life.
As the youngest senator in Washington, DC, Biden questioned the court's landmark Roe ruling when it was handed down in 1973. As a 2020 presidential candidate, he went through a very public reversal of his long-held view in favor of the Hyde Amendment and similar laws that restrict federal funding of abortions. Before the release of a draft opinion overturning Roe, Biden rarely even uttered the word abortion while in office.
But now it is his administration that will be defending Americans seeking abortions amid an expected onslaught of Republican-states that will race to outlaw the procedure.
"This fall is Roe on the ballot," Biden said. "Personal freedoms are the ballot. The right to privacy, liberty, equality — they are all on the ballot. Until then, I will do all in my power to protect women in states who will face the consequences of today's decision."
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