Psaki defends right to abortions following SCOTUS draft leak

Psaki said the focus is on "how we're going to protect a woman's right to make choices about her health care with her doctor, a right that is supported by the vast majority of the American public."

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

In Tuesday’s White House press conference, Press Secretary Jen Psaki addressed the recent leak of a draft opinion document from the Supreme Court indicating that they would be overturning Roe v Wade.

"First, let me say the President's position is that we need to codify Roe and that is what he has long called on Congress to act on. What is also true is that there has been a vote on the Women's Health Protection Act, which would do exactly that. And there were not even enough votes, even if there was no filibuster to get that done," said Psaki.

Reiterating Biden’s Tuesday morning statement, Pskai said: "He said if the court does overturn Roe, it will fall on our nation's elected officials at all levels of government to protect a woman's right to choose to do exactly that. It will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November at the federal level, we will need more pro-choice senators and a pro-choice majority in the House to adopt legislation and that was speaking to exactly where we are."

In regards to questions on the leak, Psaki said "Look, I think because it is unprecedented or almost unprecedented, depending on what historian you speak to, there's no question that that raises eyebrows for many in the country, including those in the White House but what our focus is on right now beyond the leak is how we're going to protect a woman's right to make choices about her health care with her doctor, a right that is supported by the vast majority of the American public."

"So what is the White House's message to women around the country before waking up today and realizing their daughters or their you know, younger women in this country may have less constitutional rights that they've had in their lifetime?" one report asked.

Psaki clarified that the document is a draft, not a final opinion.

"So women waking up today their daughters still had the same rights they had yesterday," said Psaki.

"But I will note though, that we have already seen in a number of states actions taken that severely limit a women's fundamental rights across the country, or right that has been law for 50 years," said Psaki.

"And what we have done already to date is take steps through our gender policy council to to provide an expand access wherever we can with our capacity," she added, noting programs that the federal government has created to help with abortion access, like the Dire Need Grant Awards.

"I would note and the President also said in his statement this morning is that he has directed his Gender Policy Council and the White House Counsel's Office to provide options for an administration response to the continued and obviously more expansive attack on abortion and reproductive rights," she said.

Psaki continued on to note that 13 states have enacted trigger laws, which would restrict or ban abortions if Roe is overturned by the Supreme Court.

"As a result of that tens of millions of women may lack access to reproductive health care services. Abortion bans and restrictions will also dramatically reduce access to reproductive care particularly for women with low incomes, women of color and women in rural communities," she said, noting that a majority of those that seek abortions are living below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, and identify as black, Hispanic, and Asian Pacific Islander.

"So it's important for everybody to understand that the people who would be impacted the most are lower income or people who would have to take off work or people who have to find a way to travel, people who would have to find a way to get childcare," Psaki said, adding that a large portion of those that seek abortions are already mothers.

In response to a reporter asking what Biden has done regarding the issue of abortion, and how high of a priority the issue has been for him, Psaki noted that a vote had been held but failed.

"I think it's important to note that there has been a vote on this it failed. It did not have even 50 votes, which means even if the filibuster were overturned, there would have not have been enough votes to get this passed. He has stated this many times publicly. This is his known position. This is many of one of many topics he discusses with lawmakers," said Psaki.

Responding to a question on why people "continued to vote for a party that wants to do away with abortion rights," Psaki said "That sounds like a question for those people who vote that way."

"Does the President agree with Justice Roberts that this [leak] was a an egregious act? And does he believe that it should be criminally prosecuted," one reporter asked, to which Psaki said that she defers to the Department of Justice on that.

"I wonder what this says about the state of our democracy that, you know, abortion is an issue that a large number, a large swath of Americans agree with yet, we continue to see these consistent attacks, you know, by party that represents a minority of Americans, does they say something about the state of our democracy?" Asked a reporter.

"I think the reason that I felt, and the President felt, it was important for me to reiterate who this impacts is because right now, this is a moment to educate the public on what the impact would be," said Psaki.

"It is often shorthanded, not by any of us, but in public discourse as a political issue as a as a wedge issue. It is not a wedge issue. The majority of the public supports women's fundamental rights, and the people who would be impacted overwhelmingly are lower income and are people of color and we need to be clear about that and how we communicate about it so everybody understands as this battle begins," said Psaki.

The press conference came shortly after Biden addressed reporters outside Air Force One, saying: "Roe says what all basic mainstream religions have historically concluded. That -right - that the existence of a human life and being is the question. Is it at the moment of conception? Is it six months? Is it six weeks? Is it quickening like Aquinas argues? So the idea that we're going to make a judgment that is going to say that no one can make the judgment to choose to abort a child based on a decision by the Supreme Court, I think goes way overboard."


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