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Biden warns Democratic governors a GOP Congress would try to ban abortion nationwide

President Joe Biden speaks as New York Gov. Kathy Hochul appears on a screen during a virtual meeting with Democratic governors on abortion rights on Friday.
Evan Vucci
President Joe Biden speaks as New York Gov. Kathy Hochul appears on a screen during a virtual meeting with Democratic governors on abortion rights on Friday.

President Joe Biden on Friday said he thinks a Republican-controlled Congress would try to pass a national ban on abortion, reiterating his push to make abortion an election issue in the November midterms.

"I predict — if we don't keep the Senate and increase [Democratic control] in the House, we're going to be in a situation where the Republicans are going to pass a nationwide prohibition, consistent with what the Supreme Court ruled," Biden said during a discussion with nine Democratic governors.

Biden told the governors he wants to find new ways to protect abortion rights and access after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade one week ago.

"I share the public outrage of this extremist court that's committed to moving America backward, with fewer rights and less autonomy," Biden said in opening comments. The president reiterated that the attorney general's office will work to protect the ability to cross state lines for abortion services and protect access to contraceptives and abortion medication.

Joining the president for the roundtable were New York's Kathy Hochul, New Mexico's Michelle Lujan Grisham, Illinois' JB Pritzker, Colorado's Jared Polis, Connecticut's Ned Lamont, North Carolina's Roy Cooper, Oregon's Kate Brown, Rhode Island's Daniel McKee and Washington's Jay Inslee — many whose states border others that have trigger laws going into effect this summer that limit or outlaw abortion after the Supreme Court's action.

Hochul said she hopes her state will be a "safe harbor" for those seeking abortion services. New York has allocated $35 million to providers to hire more staff and increase protections and resources for their staff.

"The rights of millions of women across this country are now falling on the shoulders of just a handful of states," Hochul said, asking Biden to allow people in states that limit abortion to utilize federal buildings for services.

Cooper and Lujan Grisham noted that their states are already seeing an influx of patients who are seeking services from other states.

"Part of the conversation needs to be what resources are being given to states that will have abortion access so that they can support the influx of people and support the people in their own state who will need care," Lupe Rodriguez, executive director of National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice and one of the advocates meeting with the White House, told NPR ahead of the event.

Currently, it is not illegal for those seeking abortion services to travel to other states. But some abortion opponents are looking to implement laws that could lead to limitations or legal battles against those who sought or facilitated an abortion.

Biden's actions so far

In recent days, the Health and Human Services Department announced $3 million in new funding to increase training and technical assistance for family planning providers. The money will help Title X grantees increase training and technical assistance to address the challenges that the recent Supreme Court decision could have on their Title X Family planning service delivery, according to the department.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra has also met with governors this week — Michigan's Gretchen Whitmer, Oregon's Brown and Maine's Janet Mills — to go over efforts in their states. And Becerra, along with Labor Secretary Marty Walsh,met with health insurers and employee benefit plan leadersto discuss their obligations to ensuring access to contraception medications in employee plans.

The pair, along with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen,sent a letter to insurance industry leaders, reminding them of their obligations to provide access and coverage of birth control and contraceptive counseling.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have also continued to push for voters to take the Supreme Court's decision into account when voting in the remaining primaries and general midterm election this November.

On Thursday,Biden spoke out in favor of throwing out the filibuster in the Senate for key exceptions like voting rights and abortion measures. Democrats have been unable to round up 10 Republicans needed to help clear the 60-vote hurdle on a bill to codify abortion protections in the Senate.

However, only 50 votes are needed to change the filibuster rules. But some Democrats, namely Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have consistently opposed any effort to rid the filibuster,including over abortion.

Biden acknowledged during the event that Democrats don't have the votes in the Senate, urging voters to turn out for candidates who could support a bill to codify abortion rights following the midterms.

Barbara Sprunt contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ximena Bustillo
Ximena Bustillo is a multi-platform reporter at NPR covering politics out of the White House and Congress on air and in print.