Instead of acting to ensure abortion access in America, President Biden is playing international tourist.
Shortly after the Supreme Court repealed Roe v. Wade, Biden jetted off to Germany and Spain. Before long, he’ll be headed off on a second foreign trip to the Middle East.
Why isn’t Biden rushing to protect access to abortion? His Democratic party controls both the Senate and the House of Representatives, so it’s not as if Congress is stopping him from acting.
There are plenty of steps Biden could take if he wanted to. He could use federal funds to train and deploy medical professionals to perform abortions.
He could, as some advocates have urged, use federal property such as veterans hospitals and military bases to offer abortions. He could order U.S. marshals or other armed personnel to protect these new federal abortion clinics.
Yet Biden, so far at least, has done none of this.
One possible reason for the president’s hesitation could be that Biden actually agrees with Republican state legislatures that some restrictions on abortion are warranted.
Back in July 2008, when Biden’s name first surfaced as a potential running mate for Obama, a New York Sun editorial mentioned at least four votes by Biden to outlaw a procedure known as partial-birth abortion. Biden was one of 17 Senate Democrats who backed legislation signed into law by President George W. Bush outlawing partial-birth abortion.
In a 2006 interview with Texas Monthly noted by CNN, Biden said, “I do not view abortion as a choice and a right. I think it’s always a tragedy, and I think that it should be rare and safe, and I think we should be focusing on how to limit the number of abortions.”
Even so, Biden, while Catholic, is hardly Justice Scalia, or even Rep. Henry Hyde, author of the Hyde Amendment restricting taxpayer funding of abortions, when it comes to these issues. Remember, this is a guy who served as vice president in an administration that fought the Little Sisters of the Poor in court to force them to offer contraceptive coverage in their health insurance plan.
So what gives? A cynic — or anyone who has been around Washington politics for a while — might suspect that Biden and his Democratic Party allies care more about keeping Roe alive as a political issue than they do about the practical challenges of access to women’s health care.
If Biden fixed the problem quickly by acting to ensure access to abortion, voters might reasonably conclude that Democrats were overreacting when they claimed the Supreme Court’s decision would usher in some terrible new era of back-alley, coat-hanger care.
With a quick Biden fix, voters might better understand that the Supreme Court’s decision wasn’t intended as a nationwide abortion ban, but merely aimed at restoring the issue to the responsibility of government, doctors, insurers and individuals, like much of the rest of health care.
In that scenario — with no practical change to abortion availability — the issue might recede in importance for many loyal Democratic voters. The electorate would instead choose the next president or congressman based on some other issue, like inflation or foreign policy.
It’d be different if the justices had acted under a Republican president and with a Republican Congress. If the Supreme Court had scrapped Roe under a President Trump, you’d see street protests that would make Black Lives Matter look tame.
The relative tameness of the reaction so far, though, suggests some skepticism by voters about the real-life effects.
Are Biden, Senate Majority Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi really going to stand by idly and let the states take away abortion rights? They just might.
Who gets blamed politically for the first grisly death of a mother in a failed back-alley abortion? Who gets blamed for the stories of the poor pregnant mothers in restrictive states who are stuck without access to care?
The Democrats seem to be betting that the blame will fall on Justice Alito and his colleagues and on the Republicans who nominated and confirmed them.
If Biden, Schumer and Pelosi allow these horrors to happen, it will be a sure sign they want the political issue more than they want to fix the problem.
If so, the politics may not work out exactly the way the Democrats hope. Some of the blame may blow back also to Biden and the Democratic congressional leadership. The Democratic leaders have the power to act, but they seem content to leave abortion access up to Justice Alito and the Republican state legislatures rather than taking decisive federal action.
Maybe the reason the Democrats so ardently liked having abortion written into the Constitution is that they lack the will or skill to protect by political leadership.
Ira Stoll is editor of FutureOfCapitalism.com and author of "JFK, Conservative." Read Ira Stoll's Reports — More Here.
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