HomeHealthHow fair is the criticism of Biden's response to Roe's retraction?

How fair is the criticism of Biden’s response to Roe’s retraction?

“The 360” shows you various perspectives on the most important stories and debates of the day.

What is going on

In the weeks following the Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade and ended constitutional protections against abortion, the White House drew strong criticism from many Democrats for what they see as a lukewarm response from President Biden and his administration.

But Biden has not been silent on the matter. He gave a speech shortly after the ruling was released and pledged to do “everything in my power” to protect access to abortion. However, an important part of his message was that his authority in this area is limited. The only way to restore abortion rights nationwide, Biden said, is to elect more Democrats to Congress who will pass legislation to do so.

In the days that followed, a number of progressive Democrats and abortion rights activists argued that the Biden administration had no clear plan to respond to Roe’s reversal and was not using all of its powers to protect access to abortion. Many groups have called on Biden to declare a public health emergency. Others have urged the government to allow access to abortion on federal grounds in states that have banned the procedure. Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren and Tina Smith argue that the ruling demonstrates the need for broader reforms to the US democratic system, including changes to the composition of the Supreme Court, an end to the Senate filibuster and even a reconsideration of the Electoral College.

While Biden stands somewhere between and for most of those ideas, he said late last month that he would go to the filibuster — which creates a 60-vote threshold for most legislation to pass — to codify abortion protections. Last week, he also focused on expanding access to abortion pills and legal protections for people legally undergoing or performing an abortion. On Monday, the Department of Health and Human Services released guidelines stating that federal law applies when the mother’s life is in danger, regardless of what the state law says.

Why there is discussion

Despite these actions, Biden’s critics on the left have argued that he has been far too passive in considering the severity of the court’s decision. While they admit that no president has the power to unilaterally defy the court’s rulings, they argue that the government should use all possible means to defend access to abortion, even if those moves are controversial or raise legal challenges. Others say the president has not done enough in his speeches and public statements to show pro-abortion voters that he shares their anger — an issue they fear could stifle Democratic voter turnout in the upcoming midterm elections.

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But Biden’s defenders say any perceived shortcomings reflect the limits of his powers, rather than his own actions, or lack thereof. Some also argue that many of the more aggressive moves — particularly the idea of ​​performing abortions on federal lands — would be outside his jurisdiction or quickly blocked by the Supreme Court. There are also concerns that a “scorched earth” response to Roe’s repeal could threaten the integrity of the Democratic system and reject the swing voters the party needs to maintain its majority in Congress.

While this debate has been conducted primarily among Democrats, some conservatives have argued that even Biden’s more limited actions represent too much executive influence that conflicts with the right of states to make and enforce their own laws.

What’s next

Biden told reporters on Sunday that he favors access to abortion. While that could theoretically free up more federal resources, some in the administration think it would be a largely token gesture with little impact on the ground.



Many progressive critics of Biden ask him to perform miracles

“Most of the things liberals have angered at President Joe Biden are functions of the fundamental political context, not about Biden himself, or White House staff, or Democratic leaders in Congress. That’s not to say they all do everything perfectly, just that any differences between what Biden does and what would be plausible Democratic alternatives are marginal.” —Jonathan Bernstein,

Biden risks appearing foolish if he exceeds his powers

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“Obviously, a serious government would not want to put itself in the position of appearing ridiculous with token acts that are impractical or would do very little to address the problem.” — Bill Galston, political scientist

Biden gets no credit for his bold response to Roe’s retraction

“There’s just one problem with the too-cool Joe complaints: Biden has said — heatedly and repeatedly — the very thing he’s been accused of avoiding.” — Dana Milbank,

Biden understands that no executive branch action will restore abortion rights

“Executive orders are temporary measures at best — easily overturned by the next president or overturned in court — and often ineffective. As a member of the Senate, in which he served for more than three decades, Biden prefers legislation to governing through executive fiat.” —Courtney Subramanian,

America’s democratic institutions are more important than any policy struggle

“I think this is a dangerous game the Democrats are playing — so openly proclaiming their intentions — and it raises the stakes when the president says so too. He has so far moved away from those proposals and has posed more as a moderate and institutionalist… but when he openly asks for it, it becomes the declared position of the Democratic party.” — Kimberly Strassel,


Democrats need to emulate the GOP’s all-out legal strategy on abortion

“With Roe in shambles, the president has no choice but to test bold and unknown strategies to preserve as much abortion access as possible. For decades, the anti-abortion movement has pushed legal boundaries to deny women autonomy over their bodies and lives. Abortion rights advocates must be equally resourceful in mitigating the damage from their constitutional coup.” —Lawrence Gostin and Duncan Hosie,

There’s no excuse for not having a comprehensive plan at the time Roe was withdrawn

“For the Biden administration to take office without a clear plan and strategy for this exact situation is executive malpractice. Republicans were ready to take advantage of the [decision overturning Roe] the moment it came out. Why weren’t the Democrats ready with countermeasures?” — Eli Mystal,

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The president should vocally advocate for a long-term plan to counter the court’s conservative majority

“Democrats need to give their base something to vote for. One such answer could be a plan to reinstate the court—one that goes beyond restoring Roe v. Wade and shows a deeper vision for reshaping the American political system in an era of crisis. That may take years, even decades of work, but when liberals need inspiration they can count on the decades-long effort the right has made to overthrow Roe. — Ezra Klein,

Even if it falls short, the effort to defend abortion rights matters

“We are in a crisis and we need fighters – we need people with energy and ideas. … We are well aware that restoring nationwide access to abortions will not be easy, but we need leaders who will at least TRY.” —Arwa Mahdawi,

Biden’s squandered a huge political opportunity for the Democrats

“For Democrats heading into midterms, the overturn of Roe v. Wade should have been a classic wedge issue. Not only does the abortion issue unify the Democratic base, it also creates a wedge between the fundamentalists and the rest of the GOP base that is not nearly as enthusiastic about the politics of prudishness. … Instead, however, President Joe Biden is doing the opposite. The president lets the abortion issue divide Democrats while Republican voters ignore their own responsibility for allowing the Roe revolution to happen. —Amanda Marcotte,

It is insulting to tell people to vote when they have already done so

“The message is basically that if you want to see the protections, rights and freedoms taken by six extremists on the Supreme Court restored, vote Democrats in November. While the message is correct, it is woefully inadequate. It also goes against the reality of the past two years. The truth is that people voted. In record numbers in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.” —Doug Gordon,

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Photo Illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images, David McNew/Getty Images, Getty Images

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