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Kamis, 02 September 2021

‘Unconstitutional chaos’: Biden directs White House lawyers to fight strict Texas abortion law - Sydney Morning Herald

By Jeff Mason

Washington: President Joe Biden on Thursday said he is launching a “whole-of-government effort,” including from the White House counsel, to combat a strict new Texas abortion law after an overnight Supreme Court decision let it stand.

Biden, a Democrat and a Catholic who has shifted to the left on abortion in recent years to be more in line with his party’s base, called the law that bans any abortion after six weeks an “unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights”.

Abortion rights supporters gather to protest the Texas law in front of Edinburg City Hall in Edinburg, Texas.

Abortion rights supporters gather to protest the Texas law in front of Edinburg City Hall in Edinburg, Texas. Credit:AP

The President said in a statement he was directing the office of the White House counsel and his Gender Policy Council to review how the government could “ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions... and what legal tools we have to insulate women and providers from the impact of Texas’ bizarre scheme of outsourced enforcement to private parties”.

The White House will specifically look at what measures can be taken through the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice, Biden said.

Texas’ ban has so far survived legal challenges partly because of an unusual feature that leaves enforcement up to individual citizens, who could collect cash bounties of at least $US10,000 for bringing successful lawsuits against women who seek abortion after their sixth week of pregnancy or those who help them.

Civil rights advocates warned that concept could cause havoc if it is adopted by other states or applied to other controversial rights -- like gun ownership.

US President Joe Biden speaks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

US President Joe Biden speaks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.Credit:Bloomberg

“It unleashes unconstitutional chaos and empowers self-anointed enforcers to have devastating impacts,” Biden, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Complete strangers will now be empowered to inject themselves in the most private and personal health decisions faced by women.”

The White House has called for the “codification” of abortion rights that are currently protected by the court’s 1973 Roe v Wade decision through legislation in Congress, but has not outlined any specific steps that it is taking to back any such law.

A plurality of Americans believe that abortion should be legal up until the fetus is capable of living on its own, and they remain largely supportive of Roe v Wade, a Reuters/Ipsos poll in June showed.

The responses are split along party lines, with 70 per cent of Democrats, 35 per cent of Republicans and 47 per cent of independents agreeing abortion should be legal in most or all cases.

Biden’s Democrats have control of the US Senate and House of Representatives with slim majorities and he is seeking to push through legislation on infrastructure and other Democratic priorities in the coming weeks.

The House will debate and vote on legislation stopping states from enacting restrictive anti-abortion regulations like the one just approved by Texas, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday.

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2021-09-02 19:52:22Z
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