President Joe Biden on Friday afternoon spoke to Americans about the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, a ruling that eliminated the constitutional right to abortion.
"Today the Supreme Court of the United States expressly took away the constitutional right for the American people they 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," Biden said. Now with Roe gone, let's be very clear: the health and life of women in this nation, are now at risk."
"The consequences and the consensus of the American people — core principles of equality, liberty, dignity, and a stability of the rule of law — demand that Roe should not have been overturned," he added. "With this decision, the conservative majority of the Supreme Court show how extreme it is; how far removed they are from the majority of this country, that they've made the United States an outlier among developed nations of the world."
In a speech from the White House, Biden discussed the plan for his administration to use "all of its appropriate lawful powers to fight back" but imploring Congress to take action.
"I know so many of us are frustrated and disillusioned that the court has taken something away that is so fundamental. I know so many women are now going to face incredibly difficult situations," the president said. "I hear you, I support you, I stand with you."
"Congress must act," Biden said. "Let me be very clear and not ambiguous: the only way we can secure a woman's right to choose is for Congress to restore the protection 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 to do that now, voters need to make their voices heard."
He also promised that the administration will do everything in its power to protect women's access to medications, contraception, and the right of women living in states that restrict abortion to travel to states that allow it.
"My administration will defend that bedrock right," Biden said. "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."
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty
Calling the Supreme Court's ruling "a sad day for the court and the country," Biden stressed that he believed "Roe v. Wade was the correct decision."
"It was a decision on a complex matter, but made a careful balance on a woman's right to choose early in her pregnancy and the state's ability to regulate later in her pregnancy. It was a decision with broad national consensus that most Americans' with faiths and backgrounds found acceptable. It's been the law of the land for most of the lifetime of Americans today and it was constitutionally upheld by Democrat and Republican presidents alike," Biden said.
He went on to outline the importance of a balance of power, tracing back the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade to former President Donald Trump.
"It was the three justices named by one president — Donald Trump, where the core of today's decision to upend the scales of justice and eliminate a fundamental right for women in this country," Biden said. "Make no mistake: this decision is a 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 taken away a constitutional right that is so fundamental to so many Americans that it had already been recognized."
The president outlined the "real and immediate consequences" the overturning of Roe v. Wade would have on American women. "It just stuns me," he said. "Doctors will be criminalized for fulfilling their duty to care. Imagine a young woman having to carry a child that's the consequence of incest, with no option? Too often the case that poor women will be hit the hardest. It's cruel. "
Biden noted that this decision sets the stage to eliminate other personal freedoms.
"Roe recognized the fundamental right to privacy that has served as the basis for so many other rights that we've come to take for granted, that are engrained in the fabric of this country. The right to make the best decisions for your health. The right to use birth control ... The right to marry the person you love. ... this is an extreme and dangerous path the court is now taking us on."
He ended his speech in part by reminding Americans to remain peaceful as they respond to this. "I call on everyone, no matter how deeply they care about this decision, to keep all protests peaceful," he 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."
Roe v. Wade is a landmark Supreme Court decision of 1973 that granted women the right to an abortion in every state.
The Supreme Court's 6-to-3 ruling reverses nearly 50 years of precedent and will completely change the landscape of women's reproductive rights by giving individual states the power to decide whether to allow the procedure. It is estimated that nearly half the country will enact near-total bans in the coming months.
"We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled," Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion. "The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision."
The decision will divide the country, with most blue states allowing abortion and most red states severely limiting it. The 78-page opinion was backed by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, three of whom were appointed by President Trump.
"It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people's elected representatives," Alito wrote.
Valerie Plesch/Bloomberg via Getty Protesters demonstrate outside of the Supreme Court
Biden has been under pressure from Democrats to do something unilaterally for abortion rights. Both he and Vice President Kamala Harris have been vocal about their support of a woman's right to choose. "We must recommit to strengthening access to reproductive care, defending the right established by Roe, and protecting the freedom of all people to build their own future," Biden said in January, on the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
"Roe v. Wade advanced women's equality," Harris added at the time, in part. "The constitutional right of women to make decisions about their own bodies is not an abstract concept. It saves women's lives."
In May, Politico released a leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court that detailed their decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Officials have since been working on strategies with health care professionals, state leaders and other political operatives on next steps.
"If the court does overturn Roe, it will fall on our nation's elected officials at all levels of government to protect a woman's right to choose," Biden said in May. "And it will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November. At the federal level, we will need more pro-choice senators and a pro-choice majority in the House to adopt legislation that codifies Roe, which I will work to pass and sign into law."
RELATED: Nancy Pelosi Reacts to SCOTUS Decision to Overturn Roe v. Wade
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.
The process of overturning Roe v. Wade began when Mississippi's ban on abortions after 15 weeks was struck down by a federal court. The state then asked the Supreme Court to either overturn Roe v. Wade or allow states to pass pre-viability abortion bans.
Chief Justice Roberts, appointed by President George W. Bush, concurred in the judgment only, and would have limited the decision to upholding the Mississippi law.
Dissenting were Justices Stephen Breyer, appointed by President Clinton, and Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, appointed by President Obama.