Washington — President Biden on Tuesday defended the now-overturned Roe v. Wade decision that established the constitutional right to abortion, saying that though he is not “big on abortion” because of his Catholic faith, the landmark 1973 decision “got it right.”

The president made the comments at a fundraiser for his reelection campaign in Chevy Chase, Maryland. 

“I’m a practicing Catholic. I’m not big on abortion,” Mr. Biden, who is only the second Catholic president in history, told supporters. “But guess what? Roe v. Wade got it right.”  

The president went on to detail the trimester framework governing abortion limits laid out by the Supreme Court in the Roe decision: through the first trimester, the state could not regulate abortion; through the second trimester, the state could impose regulations to protect the health of the mother; and in the third trimester, when the fetus reaches viability — generally around 22 to 24 weeks gestation — the state could regulate or prohibit abortion, with exceptions to protect the life or health of the mother.

“Roe v. Wade cut in a place where the vast majority of religions have reached agreement,” he said, noting that during “the first three months or thereabouts, in all major religions” the decision to obtain an abortion is between a woman and her family. 

Mr. Biden continued: “Next three months is between a woman and her doctor. The last three months have to be negotiated, because you can’t — unless you are in a position where your physical health is at stake — you can’t do it.”

Public opinion about when abortion should be allowed largely depends on what stage of pregnancy a woman is in. A poll conducted by Gallup in May found 69% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in the first trimester, 37% say it should be allowed in the second trimester and 22% think it should be legal in the last three months of pregnancy.

In the Roe case, decided 50 years ago, the Supreme Court recognized that the Constitution protects the right to abortion. The decision was affirmed by the high court again in the 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which prohibited states from enacting regulations that impose an undue burden on a woman’s right to an abortion before fetal viability.

But in a blockbuster ruling one year ago, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority overturned Roe, returning abortion policy to the states. The decision reversed five decades of precedent and upended the legal landscape surrounding abortion access.

President Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, D.C., on June 26, 2023.
President Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, D.C., on June 26, 2023.

Mostafa Bassim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In the wake of Roe’s reversal, 13 states enacted near-total bans on abortion, and more than a dozen more imposed stringent limits curbing access. A number of Democrat-led states, meanwhile, have taken steps to protect reproductive rights, including through new laws shielding abortion providers from legal liability.

At the federal level, Mr. Biden has directed his administration to take steps to protect access to abortion care following the Supreme Court’s decision wiping away the constitutional right to abortion, including by making a commonly used abortion pill, mifepristone, easier to obtain and ensuring members of the military can access reproductive health care. Last week, ahead of the one-year anniversary of Roe’s reversal, the president signed an executive order designed to strengthen and promote access to contraception.


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