President Joe Biden, who is Catholic, tore into the state of Texas on Friday over a law the U.S. Supreme Court allowed to stand this week that empowers residents to pursue legal remedies against anyone who facilitates an abortion in the state past six weeks when a fetal heartbeat can normally be heard.
Following an address on a less-than-stellar job report at the White House before heading to Louisiana to see the damage wrought by the deadly Hurricane Ida, Biden called the Texas law “un-American” while vowing to pursue federal measures to thwart it.
“The most pernicious thing about the Texas law, it sort of creates a vigilante system where people get rewards to go out and – anyway,” he said, referencing a provision of the law that allows people to file lawsuits against abortion providers.
He went on to say that while he “respects” people who believe that life begins at conception — as he said he did in 2015 — he does not agree with that position now, in spite of the Catholic Church’s opposition to all forms of abortion.
“It just seems, I know this sounds ridiculous, almost un-American what we’re talking about. Not to debate about, I respect people who think, who don’t support Roe v. Wade. I respect their views. I respect those who believe life begins at the moment of conception and all. I respect that, don’t agree, but I respect that. Not going to impose that on people,” he added.
The Texas law empowers state residents to report women who get an abortion after six weeks, when a fetal heart tone can be detected, including anyone who helped them get the procedure, which includes Uber drivers, according to reports. Earlier this week in a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court merely decided not to block the law from taking effect as other legal actions play out; the high court did not decide on the constitutionality of it.
Nevertheless, Biden said his Justice Department will be looking at the Texas law in the meantime to see if there is any way the federal government can act to thwart it, he said.
“There are possibilities within the existing law to have the Justice Department look and see whether there are things that can be done that can limit the independent action of individuals in enforcing in a federal system a state law,” the president said in remarks from the State Dining Room.
Later, aboard Air Force One, deputy White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre elaborated on Biden’s remarks, adding that he wants a “whole of government approach” to combat the law that necessarily involves other federal agencies.
“The president specifically tasked the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice to see what steps the federal government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe [vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion in all 50 states], and what legal tools we have to insulate women and providers from the impact of Texas — Texas’s bizarre scheme of outsourced enforcement to private parties,” Jean-Pierre said.
“So this is what he wants to do. He has — he’s been taking a whole-of-government approach. Like we said, he’s going to see what the best idea is on the table,” she added.
“The Justice Department is deeply concerned about” the Texas law, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland added Friday. “We are evaluating all options to protect the constitutional rights of women, including access to an abortion.”
Some constitutional experts think the hullabaloo is for naught because once the Supreme Court looks at the Texas law’s legality, a majority will rule against it.
“I think it’s so unconstitutional, I don’t even know where to begin,” legal expert Alan Dershowitz told Newsmax TV Thursday. “The idea of giving individuals the right to enforce the law – what if Texas next passed a law saying that anybody had the right to prevent gay marriage? If any gay people get married you can sue them, and anybody who facilitated the gay marriage and collect $10,000? Or any black person who wants to vote, a white person can sue them?”
Erin Elmore, a political strategist and former Trump surrogate who appeared with Dershowitz, argued that the issue is a matter of “states’ rights,” as abortion was once considered to be prior to the 1973 high court ruling.
“The issue is that the Supreme Court of the United States is not the legislative branch, they are the judicial branch, they interpret the law. So whether that’s going to be unconstitutional has to be ascertained by the court at a later date,” she said.
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