President Joe Biden is banking on reproductive rights to be a galvanizing issue for voters in the 2024 election as he collects three top-level endorsements, hosts a rally and issues an executive order seeking to bolster access to contraception as the nation marks a year since the Supreme Court decision overturning federal abortion protections.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday are being endorsed by Planned Parenthood Action Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America and Emily’s List. The groups are throwing their early support behind the reelection effort in part to highlight the importance of the issue for Democrats heading into the election year, the groups’ leaders told The Associated Press.
“I think that President Biden has been an incredibly valuable partner, along with Vice President Harris, in fighting back against the onslaught of attacks that we have seen,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “We are heading into an election where opposition is very clear — they are pushing for a national ban. And we have an administration that has taken actual steps to protect patients and providers during this health care crisis. The choice is really clear.”
Biden and fellow Democrats have already seen the power of the issue: A majority of Americans want legalized abortion nationwide. In the leadup to the 2022 midterm elections, many political pundits dismissed the issue, but it was among the top concerns for voters, who consistently rejected efforts to restrict abortion in the states when given the chance.
Biden’s campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, said the president and the vice president were proud to have earned the support of the groups. Since the decision last year by the Supreme Court, “we have seen the horrifying impact that the extreme MAGA agenda has on women’s health,” she said, referring to former President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
“MAGA Republicans promising a national abortion ban makes the stakes for reelecting President Biden and Vice President Harris all the more important,” she said in a statement. She added that the organizing power of the three groups was essential to Democrats’ strong performance in the 2022 midterms and will be again.
Biden has said he’ll work to protect reproductive health care, including enshrining abortion rights in federal law. He’s expected to convey that message in remarks Friday at a rally with first lady Jill Biden, Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff.
Meanwhile, just a mile (1.6 kilometers) from where Biden will be speaking, the Faith & Freedom Coalition is holding its annual conference, at which GOP presidential candidates will be urged to keep pushing for stronger abortion restrictions and work to allay fears that the push will backfire with voters. Trump, the GOP primary front-runner, will speak there on Saturday, even as he has suggested that strict abortion restrictions are a weakness for Republicans.
Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, said “we’re certainly going to do everything that we can, as an organization and as a pro-life and pro-family movement, to give our candidates a little bit of a testosterone booster shot and explain to them that they should not be on the defensive. Those who are afraid of it need to, candidly, grow a backbone.”
Biden’s executive order aims to strengthen access to contraception, a growing concern for Democrats after some conservatives have signaled a willingness to push beyond abortion into regulation of contraception. In 2017, nearly 65% or 46.9 million of the 72.2 million girls and women age 15 to 49 in the U.S. used a form of contraception.
“We’re really trying to do three separate things all related to each other,” said Jen Klein, a top Biden aide on gender policy. “The first is increased and expanded contraceptive options. The second is to lower out-of-pocket costs. And the third is to raise awareness about what options are available.”
The leading voices on abortion rights were always going to endorse the Democratic president for reelection. But the heads of the three organizations say getting out early and loudly behind Biden and Harris is important on an issue that will animate voters, despite talk that it’s no longer top of mind.
“The longer these bans are in place, the more people either will know someone who has experienced something or read a terrible story,” said Mini Timmaraju, head of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “They have to make a decision about where to go to college based on the states with the bans. They have to make a decision about whether to practice medicine based on an abortion ban. It’s permeating everyday life now, and it’s having unintended consequences.”
The consequences of restricting abortion access are quickly moving beyond ending an unwanted pregnancy into miscarriage and pregnancy care in general. Women in states with tight restrictions are increasingly unable to access care for pregnancy-related complications. Doctors facing criminal charges if they provide abortions are increasingly afraid to care for patients who aren’t sick enough yet to be considered treatable.
Since the Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion, 22 states have passed either a ban or highly restrictive policies on abortion. Other states, though, have expanded access to abortion care. The Biden administration has brought together leaders from all 50 states to talk strategy on how to expand access and work together to help people in more restrictive states.
“We should recognize that even in conservative states, there has been considerable friction to restricting rights. And that friction is born of independent women, voters and people who are not super engaged in the political process, really coming out because of this issue,” said Neera Tanden, Biden’s top domestic policy aide. “There are places where anti-choice forces have expected an easy passage of laws restricting women’s rights and they have experienced a lot more turmoil — sometimes even from Republican women legislators.”
Most of the states with severe abortion restrictions are also states that have a high maternal mortality rate and higher rates of stillbirth and miscarriage. Black women are disproportionately affected — they are more than three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Harris has argued it’s not a coincidence, given that maternal health care and abortion care are linked. The same medical procedures used to perform an abortion are the ones used to treat miscarriage.
For Emily’s List, an advocacy group for Democratic female candidates, Harris, the first female vice president, is a powerful symbol, president Laphonza Butler said.
“She is the highest-serving woman who has broken the hard glass ceiling of representing women in the White House,” Butler said. “This is the administration using every bully pulpit it can to advance reproductive health and freedom across the country. "
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