The last year was a fraught one for reproductive rights, between restricted abortion access amid the coronavirus pandemic, fights for birth control access, and potential threats to Roe v. Wade. Now, with the election of Joe Biden to the White House, the future of reproductive health and abortion rights may be pushed to the forefront of the new administration’s agenda.
Though his views on a woman’s right to choose have evolved over the years, Biden recently said, “Reproductive rights are a constitutional right. And, in fact, every woman should have that right.”
Here’s where the president stands on abortion and what he has planned.
Now in the White House, Biden is expected to overturn many Trump-era decisions, including the restrictions on abortion rights, The Associated Press reported. He has voiced plans to nominate federal judges who support Roe v. Wade and would “support a federal statute legalizing abortion if the Supreme Court’s conservative majority strikes down Roe,” according to the AP.
On January 28, just a week since being sworn into the office, President Biden signed an executive order that officially repealed Trump’s global gag rule, which restricts health organizations around the world from receiving U.S. assistance if they perform abortions or provide information about the procedure as a form of family planning.
“The best way to describe [the executive orders] is to undo the damage Trump has done,” Biden said in the Oval Office on Thursday, per BuzzFeed News. “The memorandum reverses my predecessor’s attack on women’s health access, as we continue to battle COVID-19 it’s even more critical Americans have meaningful access to health care.”
Biden has also previously expressed that he wants to reverse the Trump administration’s domestic gag rule, which restricts providers that offer abortion referrals from receiving Title X family planning funds. In 2019, Planned Parenthood opted out of the Title X program over complying with the rule. Earlier this year, a federal appeals court ruled that Trump can enforce this rule, but the restriction has been blocked in Maryland.
In his plan for health care, Biden said that he wants to build on the progress made by the Affordable Care Act, which covers access to preventive care and contraceptives. He proposes that “the public option will cover contraception and a woman’s constitutional right to choose.”
However, since 1977, the Hyde Amendment has blocked public funding of abortion under Medicaid, except in cases of incest or rape, or if the pregnancy is a danger to the mother’s life, according to the Keiser Family Foundation. It’s not a federal law, but rather a rule added to the annual Congress spending bill, which is approved every year. According to his plan, Biden supports repealing the amendment.
Biden made headlines for dropping his support of the Hyde Amendment last year amid criticism from his Democratic rivals in the primary race. “If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s ZIP code,” he said in June 2019, when he made the change. He added that he had “no apologies” for his previous stance.
And that’s not the first time Biden’s stance on abortion has changed over the years—especially during his time in the Senate. TIME pointed out, “In 1981, he supported a constitutional amendment that would enable states to overturn Roe v. Wade. In his 2007 book, Promises to Keep, he wrote that while he is ‘personally opposed to abortion,’ he didn’t feel he had the ‘right to impose [his] view on the rest of society.'”
In 2006, Biden called himself the “odd man out” of his party, because he did not support federal funding for abortion and voted for bans on the procedure later in pregnancy, CNN revealed in a resurfaced video last year.
“I do not vote for funding for abortion,” he said, per CNN. “I voted against partial-birth abortion—to limit it—and I vote for no restrictions on a woman’s right to be able to have an abortion under Roe v. Wade. And, so I am—I made everybody angry. I made the right-to-life people angry because I won’t support a constitutional amendment or limitations on a woman’s right to exercise her constitutional right as defined by Roe v. Wade. And I’ve made the groups—the women’s groups and others—very angry because I won’t support public funding and I won’t support partial-birth abortion.”
“As president, Biden will work to codify Roe v. Wade, and his Justice Department will do everything in its power to stop the rash of state laws that so blatantly violate the constitutional right to an abortion, such as so-called TRAP laws [or targeted restrictions on abortion providers], parental notification requirements, mandatory waiting periods, and ultrasound requirements,” Biden’s plan states.
The Supreme Court ruling of Roe v. Wade in 1973 made abortion legal in the United States, but states were still able to place restrictions on the procedure. At this stage, more than 20 states are poised to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Just this year, states like Florida and Mississippi have implemented abortion limitations.
The former vice president said that he wants to “codify” Roe v. Wade, as it isn’t included in the Constitution.
In an NBC town hall, Biden addressed the possibility of Judge Amy Coney Barrett overturning Roe v. Wade if she is confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. “Number one, we don’t know exactly what she will do, although the expectation is that she may very well move to [overrule] Roe,” he said. “And the only thing, the only responsible response to that would be to pass legislation making Roe the law of the land. That’s what I would do.”
The former VP made this announcement in his health care plan, citing how the Obama–Biden administration repeatedly “fought Republican attacks” on the organization. For example, during Obama’s final months in the White House before Trump’s swearing-in, his administration passed a regulation saying that states with federal funding for family planning can’t discriminate against Planned Parenthood and providers like it.
Biden said he will release guidance to keep states from blocking Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, as well as reverse Trump’s domestic gag rule.
The organization announced its official endorsement of Biden for president in June.
“Joe Biden is the only candidate in this race who will stand up for our health and our rights,” acting president Alexis McGill Johnson said in a statement. “He was instrumental in the creation of the Affordable Care Act, which expanded birth control with no co-pay to 63 million women, and in helping to ensure that sexual and reproductive health care was accessible across the country. He has spoken out for LGBTQ+ rights, and against the systemic racism in this country that is costing Black people their lives. Biden has committed to champion access to sexual and reproductive health care — including access to abortion — and to fight for our communities. When he left the Senate, Vice President Joe Biden had a 100% voting record from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and has been clear he is ‘100% for sexual and reproductive health.’ And we are going to hold him to that.”
According to The New York Times, President Trump opposes Roe v. Wade and supports the Hyde Amendment, directly countering his opponent on these issues. The president also wants to restrict access to mifepristone and misoprostol, medications that induce abortions without surgery up to 10 weeks into pregnancy. Biden doesn’t explicitly address medication abortion but has called the general procedure an “essential health service,” per NYT.
President-elect Biden also opposes—and plans to reverse—Trump’s gag rules that withhold federal funding for family planning for organizations that give abortion referrals.
“As we celebrate today, we are beginning a new chapter: one where we take full control of our bodies, our rights, our democracy, and our futures,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, in a statement. “The work does not end, because our fight to protect and expand health care for millions of Planned Parenthood supporters, patients, and global partners cannot let up for even a moment. Voters’ voices were loud and clear, and they elected a new president, who is fully committed to protecting access to sexual and reproductive health care—including access to abortion.”