President Biden on Thursday slammed the Supreme Court’s overnight ruling to allow Texas' "extreme" law that bans most abortions to remain in effect as an "unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights."
In a strongly worded statement Thursday, the president reacted to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling to allow Texas’ law to remain in effect.
The law, signed by Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May, prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, usually around six weeks and before many women know they’re pregnant.
"The Supreme Court’s ruling overnight is an unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights under Roe v. Wade, which has been the law of the land for almost 50 years," Biden said in a statement Thursday. "By allowing a law to go into effect that empowers private citizens in Texas to sue health care providers, family members supporting a woman exercising her right to choose after six weeks, or even a friend who drives her to a hospital or clinic, it unleashes unconstitutional chaos and empowers self-anointed enforcers to have devastating impacts."
The president went on to say that "complete strangers will now be empowered to inject themselves in the most private and personal health decisions faced by women."
"This law is so extreme it does not even allow for exceptions in the case of rape or incest," the president said. "And it not only empowers complete strangers to inject themselves into the most private of decisions made by a woman – it actually incentivizes them to do so with the prospect of $10,000 if they win their case."
"Rather than use its supreme authority to ensure justice could be fairly sought, the highest court of our land will allow millions of women in Texas in need of critical reproductive care to suffer while courts sift through procedural complexities," Biden continued. "The dissents by Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan all demonstrate the error of the court's action here powerfully."
Biden said the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision, while not a "final ruling," will be "immediate and requires an immediate response."
"One reason I became the first president in history to create a Gender Policy Council was to be prepared to react to such assaults on women's rights," Biden said.
The president said he is directing that council and the Office of the White House Counsel to launch "a whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision," looking specifically to 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, and what legal tools we have to insulate women and providers from the impact of Texas' bizarre scheme of outsourced enforcement to private parties."
The Texas law is the strictest law against abortion rights in the United States since the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 and part of a broader push by Republicans nationwide to impose new restrictions on abortion. At least 12 other states have enacted bans early in pregnancy, but all have been blocked from going into effect.
Chief Justice John Roberts dissented along with the court's three liberal justices. Each of the four dissenting justices wrote separate statements expressing their disagreement with the majority.
Roberts noted that while the majority denied the request for emergency relief "the court’s order is emphatic in making clear that it cannot be understood as sustaining the constitutionality of the law at issue."
Justice Sonia Sotomayor called her conservative colleagues' decision "stunning." "Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand," she wrote.
Texas lawmakers wrote the law to evade federal court review by allowing private citizens to bring civil lawsuits in state court against anyone involved in an abortion, other than the patient. Other abortion laws are enforced by state and local officials, with criminal sanctions possible.
In contrast, Texas' law allows private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone involved in facilitating abortions. Among other situations, that would include anyone who drives a woman to a clinic to get an abortion. Under the law, anyone who successfully sues another person would be entitled to at least $10,000.
Texas has long had some of the nation’s toughest abortion restrictions, including a sweeping law passed in 2013. The Supreme Court eventually struck down that law, but not before more than half of the state’s 40-plus clinics closed.
Even before the Texas case arrived at the high court the justices had planned to tackle the issue of abortion rights in a major case scheduled for argument in the fall. That case involves the state of Mississippi, which is asking to be allowed to enforce an abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.