WASHINGTON — In a statement to mark the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling, President Joe Biden said June 24 that his administration “will continue to protect access to reproductive health care and call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade in federal law once and for all.”
Elsewhere in Washington, national pro-life groups held a rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to mark the first anniversary of the ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned Roe v. Wade — which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973 — and returned abortion policy to the states.
A day earlier Biden signed an executive order “strengthening access to affordable, high-quality contraception and family planning services.” This follows a presidential memo Biden signed Jan. 22, which would have been Roe’s 50th anniversary, pledging to ensure safe access to the FDA-approved, two-drug protocol for a chemical abortion, which is facing a court challenge.
The Supreme Court “took away a constitutional right from the American people,” Biden, a Catholic who supports legal abortion, said in his statement marking the Dobbs anniversary.
However, “the Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision,” Justice Sam Alito said in writing for the majority in the Dobbs decision June 24, 2022.
The Dobbs ruling was handed down in a case involving a Mississippi law that banned abortion after 15 weeks, in which the state directly challenged the high court’s abortion-related precedents in Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992).
In affirming the law 6-3, the high court also voted 5-4 to overturn Roe and Casey, which affirmed Roe.
Defenders of the court’s earlier opinions “now chiefly rely” on “the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” said Alito, who was joined in the majority 5-4 opinion by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. “That provision has been held to guarantee some rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution, but any such right must be ‘deeply rooted in this nation’s history and tradition’ and ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.’ … The right to abortion does not fall within this category.”
Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote a separate opinion, concurred with the majority in upholding the Mississippi law, but not in overturning Roe.
In the year since the Dobbs ruling, individual states have moved to either restrict abortion or expand access to the procedure.
Biden’s June 23 executive order, issued the eve of the Dobbs anniversary, strengthens “access to affordable, high-quality contraception and family planning services.” Among other actions, the order directs the secretaries of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services departments to consider new guidance to ensure that women with private health insurance have access to affordable contraceptives; promotes increased access to over-the-counter contraception; supports Medicaid coverage of family planning services; and supports access to affordable contraception for college students.
At a rally the same day, three major groups that support legal abortion — Planned Parenthood Action Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America and EMILY’s List — endorsed the reelection bid of Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
In 2022, following the Dobbs ruling, Biden issued two executive orders — July 8 and Aug. 3, respectively — outlining a comprehensive slate of actions to protect access to reproductive health care services, including abortion, and provide for the “the safety and security of patients, providers and clinics.”
Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, as the U.S. bishops’ pro-life chairman at the time, called it “deeply disturbing and tragic” that Biden chose to use his power as the nation’s chief executive “to promote and facilitate abortion in our country” rather than support resources for pregnant women in need.
In a statement marking the Dobbs anniversary, the current chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Bishop Michael J. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, said that “we have much to celebrate” but also noted the Supreme Court’s decision marked the beginning of a critical new phase in protecting human life.
“By the grace of God, the nearly fifty-year reign of national abortion on demand has been put to an end. Roe v. Wade, a seemingly insurmountable blight on our nation — is no more!” he said June 6.
But, he added, “over the past year, while some states have acted to protect preborn children, others have tragically moved to enshrine abortion in law — enacting extreme abortion policies that leave children vulnerable to abortion, even until the moment of birth. … The work that lies ahead continues to be not just changing laws but also helping to change hearts, with steadfast faith in the power of God to do so.”