In State of the Union, Biden Calls to ‘Codify Roe’ and Shut Down ‘Extreme’ Pro-Life Laws
The first post-Roe State of the Union painted life-saving laws as “extreme,” ignoring that most Americans want abortion limits.
President Joe Biden, a Catholic who breaks with Church teaching on abortion, called state abortion limits “extreme” in his State of the Union address Tuesday and asked Congress to “codify Roe v. Wade.” Yet in playing the “extremism” card, he failed to address the fact that Roe’s viability standard permitting abortion late in pregnancy would be considered extreme by the majority of Americans, who consistently poll as wanting to limit abortion to the first trimester.
A January Marist poll, commissioned by the Knights of Columbus, found that 69% of Americans supported limiting abortion to the first trimester. This is in line with decades of Gallup polling showing that only about 18% of Americans support abortion in the third trimester and only 28% in the second trimester, compared with about 60% supporting abortion in the first trimester.
President Biden wasn’t always so extreme himself: He might have agreed with that majority of Americans in 2006 when he told Texas Monthly, “I do not view abortion as a choice and a right. I think it’s always a tragedy. I think it should be rare and safe. I think we should be focusing on how to limit the number of abortions.” He has changed his stance on the issue over the years and moved to support taxpayer funding for abortion on the 2020 campaign trail after years of opposing it.
Following the overturning of Roe, 13 states have banned abortion in almost all cases and several more have bans pending amid legal challenges. The state abortion bans all include life of the mother exceptions. Some states have limited abortion to 15 weeks gestation, in line with the laws of most countries in the world.
These measures have had the effect of reducing the number of abortions in the country by 6% or 10,670 since the Dobbs decision, according to one November study from the pro-abortion Society of Family Planning.
While Biden may view this as “extreme,” he has been unwilling to acknowledge that any limit should be placed on abortion beyond telling EWTN’s Owen Jensen to “read” the Roe v. Wade decision when asked what limit he would support.
Roe allowed abortion until viability, which was defined at the time of the decision in 1973 “at about seven months (28 weeks)” but the Court conceded that it “may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks.” As technology has improved, the perception of viability has shifted as babies born at 21 weeks have survived birth. The Court wrote in Dobbs that “viability has changed over time and is heavily dependent on factors — such as medical advances and the availability of quality medical care — that have nothing to do with the characteristics of a fetus.”
In addition to Biden’s ill-defined support of Roe, his plan to “codify” it is via the proposed Women’s Health Protection Act, a measure he backed in May that would go well beyond the 1973 decision. It would bar almost any state limitations on abortion, including “a prohibition on abortion at any point or points in time prior to fetal viability ... a prohibition or restriction on a particular abortion procedure,” and even “a prohibition on abortion after fetal viability when, in the good-faith medical judgment of the treating health care provider, continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk to the pregnant patient’s life or health.”
Later in his State of the Union address, Biden promised that “if Congress passes a national abortion ban, I will veto it.”
While there hasn’t been a proposal to ban all or even most abortions on the national level, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has proposed a 15-week ban on the procedure which is unlikely to succeed given Democratic control of the Senate.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters in September that Graham’s proposal was “wildly out of step with where the majority of Americans are.” However, a Harvard Harris survey conducted in June 2022, after Roe v. Wade was overturned, found that 72% of voters, including 60% of Democratic voters, thought their state should not allow abortion past 15 weeks.
While it’s unclear how Biden’s promise to continue to push for greater abortion access landed with the American people, prominent abortion groups praised Biden’s address. NARAL president Mini Timmaraju tweeted “this is what it’s like to have a reproductive freedom champion in the White House” and Planned Parenthood Action Fund tweeted “this is the type of commitment we need from our leaders at every level of government.”