Biden vows quick action on codifying Roe if Democrats get enough votes in Congress

He said that if Americans care about the right to choose, they've "got to vote."

October 18, 2022, 1:15 PM

President Joe Biden is stepping up his efforts to make abortion rights a major focus for Democrats as the midterm election cycle enters its final weeks.

In a speech on Tuesday at the Howard Theatre, Biden highlighted his party's contrast with Republicans on the issue -- and vowed to codify abortion access into federal law next year if Democrats keep their congressional majorities and, crucially, expand their ranks in the Senate.

Biden promised that the first bill he would send to the next Congress, if still held by Democrats, would restore abortion rights under Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that the Supreme Court overruled in June.

"I want to remind us all of how we felt that day when 50 years of constitutional precedent was overturned: the anger, the worry, the disbelief," Biden said in his speech against a backdrop of "Restore Roe" posters.

Biden has repeatedly advocated for changing the Senate's 60-vote filibuster requirement so that Democrats can pass legislation protecting abortion access with fewer votes.

But two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, are opposed to eliminating the longstanding chamber rule, arguing the filibuster provides legislative continuity.

Biden urged voters on Tuesday to elect two more Democrats to overcome the pair's opposition to changing the filibuster.

"If you care about the right to choose, then you've got to vote," he said, calling the November races an "inflection point" for the nation.

"With your support, I'll sign a law codifying Roe in January. Together, let's remember who we are," Biden said in closing.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden speaks about abortion access during a Democratic National Committee event at the Howard Theatre, Oct. 18, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
President Joe Biden speaks about abortion access during a Democratic National Committee event at the Howard Theatre, Oct. 18, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
Evan Vucci/AP

Since the Supreme Court's decision, at least a dozen states have ceased nearly all abortion services.

At the federal level, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has also proposed legislation that would prohibit the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy except in cases of rape, incest or risk to the physical health of the mother.

Biden on Tuesday slammed Republican proposals on abortion and said if any legislation from a Republican-led Congress to restrict access comes to his desk, he will veto it.

Despite the heated rhetoric surrounding abortion rights in critical House and Senate races across the country, a new poll suggests it may not be the winning issue Democrats hope it will be to help them keep majority control in Congress -- given other headwinds like historically high inflation.

A New York Times/Siena College survey released Monday found independent voters, especially women, were shifting to the Republican Party ahead of next month's elections.

A previous Times/Siena poll in September found that women who identified as independents backed Democrats by 14 points. In the latest poll, though, these voters backed Republicans by 18 points.

The economy remained the top issue for likely voters in the Times/Siena poll, with 26% saying it's the most important problem facing the country and 18% saying the same about inflation. Just 5% of likely voters said abortion was the nation's most important issue.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll released last month also found the economy to be a greater issue for voters: 84% said it was a top issue, while 62% said the same about abortion. The poll also found the public trusted the GOP more to handle the economy and inflation, while putting more trust in Democrats to handle abortion issues.

House Democrats passed two bills in July to protect abortion access and enshrine Roe v. Wade in federal law. But the legislation has yet to be taken up in the Senate.

ABC News' Justin Gomez contributed to this report.