Remarks by President Biden During a Virtual Meeting with Governors on Reproductive Rights
South Court Auditorium
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
(July 1, 2022)
1:16 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hey, everyone. Thank you for doing this. Thanks.
I’ll leave it to you.
I open it up? Okay.
MS. KLEIN: You open it up.
THE PRESIDENT: I know you’re all busy as I am. Thank you for making the time with us. I need not tell any of you we’re in a really important area here and we have to act.
I’m joined by a group of Democratic governors as we work closely to protect women’s rights after this tragic reversal of Roe v. Wade — a terrible, extreme decision, in my view, upending the lives and impacting on the health and safety of millions of women.
And I share the public outrage at this extremist Court that’s committed to moving America backwards with fewer rights, less autonomy, and politicians invading the most personal of decisions of not only women but we’ll find, if they expend — expand on this decision, men as well.
But as I said last week, this is not over. Last week, I announced two specific actions. First, if extremist governors try to block a woman from traveling from her state that prohibits her from seeking the medical help she needs to a state that provides that care, the federal government will act to protect her bedrock right through the Attorneys General’s Office.
Second, if states try to block a woman from getting medication the FDA has already approved and has been available for more than 20 years, my administration will act and protect that woman’s right to that medication.
And there are many other unlawful actions, in my view, that states are preparing to take that will have — we’ll have to address as well.
But ultimately, Congress is going to have to act to codify Roe into federal law. And as I said yesterday, the filibuster should not stand in the way of us being able to do that.
But right now, we don’t have the votes in the Senate to change the filibuster on — on — at the moment. That means we need two more votes now — not now — when we vote, probably after November — more senators and House majority — and the House majority elected in November to get this bill to my desk.
So, the choice is clear: We either elect federal Senators and Representatives who will codify Roe, or Republicans who will elect the House and Senate will try to ban abortions nationwide. Nationwide. This is going to go one way or the other after November.
So let’s remember: The reasoning of this decision has an impact much beyond Roe and to the right to privacy more generally.
Justice Thomas himself said that, under the reasoning of this decision, that the Court should reconsider marriage equality and contraception.
And there’s a lot at stake.
In the meantime, I want to hear what the governors are doing, talk about my plans, and discuss what we can do as — until Congress acts.
This is not over. This is not over.
Now I’m going to turn it over to Jen Klein, the head of the White House Gender Policy Council. And we’ll proceed with the discussions.
MS. KLEIN: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President. And I’d like to add my thanks to each of you for joining and for your leadership.
We’d, as the President just said, really like to hear from you about both what you’ve done and further action that you’re planning to take. So we’re going to start with you, Governor Hochul, from New York. Over to you.
GOVERNOR HOCHUL: Thank you, Jen. And thank you, Mr. President, for convening us with the sense of urgency that I feel that you are conveying, because this is a frightening time for women all across our nation. A lot of fear and anxiety out there. And I hear it from women all across the state, or they come up to me at subway stops in New York City, at farmers’ markets. Literally, young women who never even had to think about this right are coming up and putting their arms around my neck and sobbing.
So there is such stress out there. So we — in the state of New York, this came the day after the Supreme Court also told us that we did not have the right to protect our citizens from people carrying concealed weapons in places like subways, in Times Square, et cetera. So what I had to do is convene an extraordinary session — because they weren’t due back until January.
I brought them back and, literally at 2:00 a.m. this morning, while we’re still working on the gun legislation, I changed my proclamation to say we’ll also include to give further protections for women in the state — what we call the Equality Agenda. This will prohibit discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes and reproductive healthcare and autonomy.
So we’re one step closer as of this afternoon — I think it’s going to be passed by both houses — to enshrine abortion rights in our state constitution. So as long as I’m Governor, these rights will not be rolled back.
But we also are prepared to serve as a destination for women who will be looking to a place like New York and other states — some of my colleagues on the call — as a safe harbor.
So even before the Supreme Court decision, I knew I had to beef up our opportunities for women to come from other states. We allocated $35 million right off the bat to go to providers so they could hire more people, expand their space, and make sure that they can keep their staff safe from violence as well.
And we also decided to mandate: All insurance companies doing business in the state of New York now have to cover abortion. And I signed six bills related to protecting our providers after the decision came down. We’ll stop the extradition of any — any search for — when our providers or a woman who’s in our state who are wanted under criminal charges. That’s not happening in New York. And we’re also defending our abortion providers from malpractice and other lawsuits.
We also launched a public awareness campaign, because there’s a lot of misinformation. Women in New York are seeing the national news; they don’t know whether their rights are protected here in New York.
So we’re going to continue to be leaders in this fight, protect our providers — protect them from the vigilante justice, which has been unleashed by the states that are going to allow these private rights of action where they’re going to hunt down women and providers.
This is, you know, chaos. It’s frightening. But also, we’re doing what we can to make sure that, you know, we are protected.
What’s happening now: The rights of millions of women across this country are now falling on the shourder [sic] — shoulders of just a handful of states. Just a handful of states are now going to have to take care of the healthcare of women from other states.
So we believe as you do, Mr. President, that what’s available to New Yorkers and the other enlightened states should be available to all Americans. And no one should have to travel.
And that’s why, as you agree with us, Congress has to act. And we sent a letter way back, to Congress, saying, “Please pass the Women’s Health Protection Act. Let’s get it through the Senate.”
So what we’re doing at the state level is key. But I completely agree with you and I commend you, Mr. President, for standing up and talking about the fact that it is the filibuster that’s preventing the majority of senators, and it is the majority of senators who want to speak on behalf of the majority of Americans.
But we understand our options are limited until next January, with a new Senate. And we’re all going to be focusing very hard on that outcome because it is a matter of life and death for American women, because we do not want to go back to the days, anywhere in this country, of the back-alley abortions, which are real. I talked to one of my neighbors down the hall who use- — whose husband used to perform these abortions before abortion was legal in New York State in 1970.
And so this is not just hyperbole, it is real.
So what we’re asking to help continue at the federal level: We believe that more can be done to fund family planning services more broadly to allow the providers and their clinics to have sta- — federal resources for these services, and
they can focus on private dollars for abortion services.
And I’m really grateful that you’re putting an emphasis on what’s going to happen for women to be able to continue to receive abortion services by mail. I mean, this is going to be a battle that when — that people would not have foreseen. We want to make sure that there’s no unlawful interference. And we have to do that to ease public concerns.
And also, Mr. President, we’d ask that you consider your ability to use federal facilities. What am I talking about? Veterans’ hospitals, military bases, and other places where the federal government controls the jurisdiction in some of the states that are hostile to women’s rights, and make sure that those services can be available to other women.
So those are just a few of the ideas that we encourage you to look at — an idea of what we’re doing at the New York State level. But literally before close of business today, we will have the first step toward a process of changing our Constitution, which is the boldest step we can take. And we just started that today.
So — so thank you for convening us. We are there to stand with you to do something that — protect a right that my mother’s generation had to fight for, I fought for, my daughter who’s in her 30s had to fight for, and now, Mr. President, I have a grand-new [sic] — brand-new granddaughter, and thank you for your note acknowledging that.
I didn’t think we’d have to fight this battle for her generation as well, but apparently we do. But we are ready to take on that fight.
So, thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I didn’t think we would either. I was worried we would. But, you know, I think that a lot of the folks don’t understand what this decision means. It means if — if you got a 11-year-old child who’s a victim of incest and finds herself pregnant, which occurs, that, you know, she can’t get choice, she — she can’t — her health can’t be protected. You find, you know, if you’re raped, there’s no exception.
I mean, there’s so many things that people really haven’t focused on yet, beyond the fundamental right of a woman to be able to choose.
And so I just think that, as you pointed out, Kathy, we’re going to — it’s going to be a big deal that we get people out to vote, because here’s what’s going to happen, I predict: If we don’t — if we don’t take this — keep the Senate, increase it 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.
And so, there’s a lot at stake here. But I’m sure glad you’re leading New York. For real.
GOVERNOR HOCHUL: Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MS. KLEIN: Thank you, Governor Hochul. I’m now going to turn to Governor Cooper.
GOVERNOR COOPER: Thanks, Jen. Thanks, Mr. President, for convening this call and for your leadership, particularly on the filibuster.
And unlike Governor Hochul in New York, our Republican legislature is not going to amend the Constitution, but this Democratic governor is going to hold the line to protect women’s reproductive freedom in our state.
It has really been devastating for so many, as reproductive care really has been halted in its tracks in many places across the country. That constitutional right that women have relied on for five decades has been ripped away. And for now, at least, where you live will determine your rights.
So, for now, it’s up to the states to determine whether can — women can get reproductive healthcare. And in North Carolina, they still can. And I’m determined to keep it that way.
Because of our location in the southeast, Mr. President, North Carolina is already seeing an influx of patients coming to our state for safe care. According to Planned Parenthood of the South Atlantic, their clinics in North Carolina have scheduled 192 patients from out of state for the next week alone. That means about 10,000 extra patients from out of state coming to North Carolina in the next year, mostly from states that have bans and tighter restrictions.
And those, Mr. President, are just the numbers from Planned Parenthood. That doesn’t include our state’s other trusted providers, so we know those numbers will be a lot higher.
Your ZIP code should not determine your rights. North Carolina has a law that’s going to prevent obstructing access to these clinics. And we’re working with law enforcement to make sure that that law is enforced.
Women and doctors should not have these politicians in the exam room with them looking over their shoulders. And I’m going to continue to trust women to make their own medical decisions.
Now, a large part of that, at least for North Carolina, Mr. President, is keeping enough Democratic state legislators in our state to sustain my vetoes, as they have a time and again before.
And it also means keeping and electing more Democratic governors across the country this November. And that is my mission as Chair of the Democratic Governors Association this year. Because, Mr. President, governors — right now, governors really are the last line of defense. And they’re also the first chance at progress, which you’re going to hear today, especially with this Supreme Court on such a destructive path.
Mr. President, the stakes are high, but they have never been clearer. We are not — we are not backing down. We are ready to do what is needed to protect women’s health. And, Mr. President, I urge you to do everything you can on the federal level while we work hard in the states.
Thanks. Thanks for this opportunity.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Gov — look, Roy, you’re doing a heck of a job, and a lot of your colleagues on this call are as well. I — I assure you that — I got off the phone today with the Attorney General before I came in. Matter of fact, it was one of the reasons I was — excuse me — a few minutes late. And we’re going to do everything within the power of the federal government to make sure that any attempt to obstruct — obstruct anything from travel to access to — to medicine is just not — it does not occur.
We also, by the way — I think we’re going to have to see — and this relates to Governor Hochul as well — that funding for family planning, not — not — not for abortion, but for family planning.
And there’s a lot we have to do, because a lot of women are — for example, a lot of the family planning has to do with whether or not a woman gets access — poor women get access to — to cancer care or things unrelated to choice.
And so there’s a lot we have to do. I think we can get it done. I think the American people are with us. And — and again, I thank you for your — for your leadership. And I’m not being solicitous. But you’re always there. So, thanks, pal. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
GOVERNOR COOPER: Thank you, Mr. President. Grateful for you.
MS. KLEIN: And now we’re going to turn to Governor Lujan Grisham.
GOVERNOR LUJAN GRISHAM: Thank you, Jen. And thank you, Mr. President. And I’m delighted, frankly, to join the fight with my incredible Democratic gubernatorial colleagues; that we are, in fact, that brick wall against this horrific Supreme Court decision.
And I also, Mr. President, really appreciate that you’ve continued to lean in, that this privacy rights debate extends far beyond choice.
And we — what we do today in the space for protecting reproductive rights absolutely should move in the direction to prepare to protect everyone’s additional privacy rights, including making sure that we don’t roll backwards on same-sex marriage and other related issues.
So, New Mexico certainly saw this coming as a potential. We quickly — a year ago, I signed into law repealing an antiquated, unconstitutional law that criminalized — that could criminalize abortion care and abortion providers. That is now repealed. We did that last year.
And in doing that, we also increased resources for family planning, contraceptives, reproductive care, abortion, abortion care services through all of our network of providers and through state funds. We’ll continue to do that.
Most recently, we signed an executive order following the same kinds of efforts you’re seeing now across the country, joining Massachusetts, as an example, but now New York: this is not a place where the draconian efforts by neighboring states, such as Texas, who have stated that they will, in fact, criminalize providers. They’re looking for providers that have multiple state operations and licenses. And this whole notion that you can criminalize the patient, including asking your neighbors and churches to turn your — your loved ones, family members, and neighbors in.
We will not cooperate as a state in any of those efforts or investigations. We will not extradite. We will provide coverage and protection for all our providers and any individual seeking abortion care and abortion services in the state of New Mexico.
Like my colleagues, we are seeing an increase, and we are working diligently to make sure that when we say and we mean that abortion is “legal, safe, and accessible,” that, in fact, it is.
So, as you talk about what we can do, given this Supreme Court decision and given that my colleague, like Chairman Governor Roy Cooper, not every state has a democratically led legislature.
We are going to need the feds to think about ways — not just the FDA protection — for making sure that telemedicine is available for contraceptives and abortion care. But, in fact, we’re going to need to make sure that through a public health vehicle, that we are, in fact, doing family planning. We should educate people; that should be a national campaign. We should talk about access points. We should be using school-based health centers. There’s a number of things that we could use your assistance and your leadership.
And you’re already leaning in that direction, not just on preventing the criminalization, but making sure we’re talking about where resources can, in fact, go that would protect women in states that have signaled that they have no interest — in their wholesale bans — in protecting women and other populations and keeping government out of their personal, autonomous decision-making.
Two, I agree wholeheartedly with Governor Hochul that there are more federal opportunities, and she mentioned several. I think that our Indian Health Service Clinics could be another effective vehicle. I will tell you that there — I’ve been reached out by a number of sovereign nations who I think would be very supportive and interested.
I certainly can’t speak to that across the country, but they’re clear that even a new recent Supreme Court decision limiting sovereignty has the same draconian, absolute — right? — unfairness that is looking at being applied through the Supreme Court to them.
So I think that may be yet another vehicle that we could expand that would protect women and particularly minority populations all across the country.
We stand ready to fight hard across the country and making sure that you have what you need in Congress so that we can codify Roe v. Wade, so that your states that stand as that safe haven and brick wall will continue to do that, and support us as many women and their families all across America who are going to need us as we fight to win this battle.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Michelle, you’re already standing up for folks on your neighboring states. It matters. It matters a lot.
And one of the things that I’m finding is that we are looking — beginning the process — or in the process of looking at all the alternatives, including the sovereign nation question. And — but there’s going to be a lot more that’s going to come through.
I mean, I think people are going to be shocked when the first state — the first state that tries to arrest a woman for crossing a state line to get health services, and they’re — I don’t think people believe that’s going to happen. But it’s going to happen and it’s going to — it’s going to telegraph to the whole country that this is — this is a gigantic deal that goes beyond. I mean, it affects all your basic rights.
And — so at any rate, I thank you for all you’re — all you’re already doing. And we’re going to take a quick little hesitation here. The press is about to leave so we can continue. If you all have a few more minutes, I want to talk to all of you, if you can.
And while we’re waiting, think about what you think I should be doing, if you were sitting in my seat, that I should be considering that we haven’t already considered and could be useful.
1:38 P.M. EDT