Biden’s Abortion Aside
Reproductive Rights got 30 seconds in the State of the Union
In President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union since Roe was overturned and half of the country lost their right to be seen as full human beings, abortion barely merited a mention. In a speech where ‘junk fees’ got nineteen sentences, reproductive rights got just four:
“Congress must restore the right the Supreme Court took away last year and codify Roe v. Wade to protect every woman’s constitutional right to choose. The Vice President and I are doing everything we can to protect access to reproductive health care and safeguard patient privacy. But already, more than a dozen states are enforcing extreme abortion bans. Make no mistake; if Congress passes a national abortion ban, I will veto it.”
In all, Biden spoke on abortion for about thirty seconds. And while the president found emotion and energy when talking about other issues facing the nation, he seemed to almost shrug out the perfunctory few sentences on abortion.
It was, to be blunt, offensive.
This speech was the president’s opportunity to say something meaningful to the women of this country, a chance to announce some kind of real action outside of empty platitudes. At the very least, it was the time and place to seriously highlight the crisis of care brought on by abortion restrictions.
For over six months, Americans have been suffering under abortion bans that they didn’t vote for and don’t want. Women left bleeding for days. Cancer patients and raped children denied care. Burst ectopic pregnancies. All of that suffering—and we got thirty seconds?
First Lady Jill Biden brought Amanda Zurawski as her guest tonight—a Texas woman who ended up in the ICU with sepsis after being denied an abortion for a doomed pregnancy. Didn’t she deserve more than four sentences?
There was no mention of the conservative efforts to ban abortion medication, or the fact that a court decision could come down this week that would strip even pro-choice states of the right to offer those pills to patients. There was nothing about the twenty Attorneys General who threatened retail pharmacies to keep the medication out of their states, even though they’re standard treatment for miscarriages.
No words spoken about the doctors forced to choose between giving their patients adequate care or prison time. No time spent on the pregnant women kept in an Alabama jail in order to ‘protect’ their fetuses.
Even if the president couldn’t muster up any energy or urgency for all of this suffering, why not talk about the politics of it all? He could have spoken about the American voters who came out in force during the midterms to make their voices heard on abortion. Or how a small number of extremist legislators are forcing restrictions and bans on citizens who decidedly don’t want them.
Biden could have cited a new poll showing that 80 percent of Americans are afraid people will be prosecuted for miscarriages or stillbirths that law enforcement find suspect. Or the decades of polls that prove, despite Republican rhetoric to the contrary, that Americans are not split on abortion rights—they’re overwhelmingly in favor of them.
The president even failed to made vital connections between abortion rights and families’ economic health when the opportunity was right in front of him: When Biden touted the importance of parental leave and affordable child care, it was a prime moment to explain how much more important these issues are now that the country is literally forcing women to have children against their wills.
But we got none of that. No nuance about how reproductive rights impact every other area of American life, no acknowledgement of the harm caused by abortion bans, no urgency or understanding for the fear that so many women are feeling while living in a country that doesn’t view them as full people.
We didn’t even get a full minute of his time.
If President Biden gave American women any message tonight, it's this: We’re on our own.