U.S. President Joe Biden said the Supreme Court decision overturning the right to an abortion was an exercise in “raw political power” and signed an executive order on Friday to ease access to services to terminate pregnancies.
Biden, a Democrat, has been under pressure from his own party to take action after the landmark decision last month to overturn Roe v Wade, which upended roughly 50 years of protections for women’s reproductive rights.
The order directs the government’s health department to expand access to “medication abortion” – pills prescribed to end pregnancies – and ensure women have access to emergency medical care, family planning services and contraception. It also mentions protecting doctors, women who travel for abortions and mobile abortion clinics at state borders.
But it offered few specifics and promises to have limited impact in practice, since U.S. states can make laws restricting abortion and access to medication.
“What we’re witnessing wasn’t a constitutional judgment, it was an exercise in raw political power,” Biden told reporters at the White House. “We cannot allow an out of control Supreme Court, working in conjunction with extremist elements of the Republican party, to take away freedoms and our personal autonomy.”
The White House is not publicly entertaining the idea of reforming the court itself or expanding the nine-member panel.
Instead, Biden laid out how abortion rights could be codified into law by voters if they elected “two additional pro-choice senators, and a pro-choice House” and urged women to turn out in record numbers to vote. He said he would veto any law passed by Republicans to ban abortion rights nationwide.
Jen Klein, director of the president’s Gender Policy Council at the White House, did not name any specifics when asked what the order would change for women.
“You can’t solve by executive action what the Supreme Court has done,” she said.