US President Joe Biden has called on Americans concerned with reproductive rights to vote for Democrats in midterm elections, promising to push a bill in Congress that would protect the right to abortion nationwide if his party wins next month.
Biden said in a speech on Tuesday that he would sign legislation early next year codifying Roe v Wade, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that had ensured a constitutional right to abortion, if Democrats retain control of the House of Representatives and expand their majority in the Senate.
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“Folks, if we do that, here’s the promise I make to you and the American people: The first bill that I will send to the Congress will be to codify Roe v Wade, and when Congress passes that, I’ll sign it in January,” Biden said.
The conservative majority on the top court in the United States overturned Roe in June, igniting outrage among abortion rights advocates and Democratic lawmakers.
Democrats have made abortion a key election issue, which so far has proved effective. Democratic candidates who focused on abortion in their campaigns have won key early races.
Voters in Kansas, a Republican-leaning state, also rejected a referendum to remove abortion protections from its constitution.
Democrats now have narrow control of both chambers of Congress, but a legislative procedure known as the filibuster in the 100-member Senate sets a 60-vote threshold to pass major bills.
Biden had previously expressed support for carving out a filibuster exemption to pass laws to protect abortion rights. But two conservative Democratic senators have balked at the idea, and measures in support of reproductive rights approved by the House have stalled in the Senate.
All 435 seats in the House and 35 of the Senate’s 100 seats will be up for grabs in the midterm elections on November 8.
Almost immediately after Roe was overturned, conservative states moved to pass restrictions on abortion, including near total bans, arguing that abortion violates the “sanctity of life”.
While some Republicans argue that the issue should be left to the states to regulate, Senator Lindsey Graham, a key ally of former President Donald Trump, introduced a bill in the US Congress last month that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
On Tuesday, Biden pledged to veto any national abortion ban that might reach his desk.
He added that the only way to stop the “extremists” trying to jeopardise reproductive health care is for Congress to pass a law safeguarding abortion rights.
“Together, let’s remember who we are,” he said. “We are the United States of America, and there’s nothing beyond our capacity. So vote, vote, vote.”