Despite being hit with an unprecedented 300 or more anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in U.S. state legislatures over the past two years, the nation’s LGBTQ community at the same time has seen some important advances and there is reason for optimism, according to a March 19 LGBTQ State of the Movement address delivered by two key movement leaders.
Kierra Johnson and Mayra Hidalgo Salazar, executive director and deputy executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, offered a detailed assessment of where things stand today for LGBTQ people in the United States during the organization’s 22nd Annual Creating Change Conference, which was held virtually March 19-20.
Since it began in 1987, Task Force officials have said the Creating Change Conference has served as the LGBTQ movement’s preeminent organizing, skills-building, and networking event.
Johnson and Salazar said the political attacks on LGBTQ rights and other progressive causes coming in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic have forced LGBTQ leaders and activists to adopt new strategies for responding to the attacks.
“We are doing this in the face of storms that have kept coming,” Salazar said. “In just the last year, there have been relentless attacks to gut voting rights, the right to protest, abortion access, and trans youth health and rights,” she stated in the address delivered jointly by the two women.
“There have been 100 anti-trans bills and over 300 anti-LGBTQ bills considered in state legislatures across the nation,” she continued, adding that a record number of deportations of immigrants, a “barrage” of racial injustice in the U.S. and abroad, and new and ongoing wars and conflicts, “have left many of us feeling afraid, disconnected, and powerless.”
Johnson continued those thoughts by saying, “We know that you are tired. Many of you are afraid and rightfully so…But I know that I’m talking to a group of people who know that these events, these feelings, they’re no reason to stop the work – anything but,” Johnson said. “These are the reasons we do the work. This is why what we do is so important, why you are showing up today, and tomorrow and it is the difference between the light at the end of the tunnel going out entirely and growing brighter and nearer for us and for generations to come.”
Salazar cited what she called optimistic data showing that more people are coming out as LGBTQ than ever before at an earlier age, with young people identifying in greater numbers as bisexual and nonbinary.
“Now some of you may be wondering, is there something in the water?” she continued. “Of course, the answer is no! But more people coming out and the fluidity in how they identify has everything to do with the work you and we have done and do every single day to build a world where people can embrace themselves – and be embraced – in every aspect of their lives.”
As a further sign of optimism, Johnson noted the political climate for LGBTQ people coming from the White House has changed for the better since January 2021.
“After four years of relentless attacks on LGBTQ+ rights, the Biden-Harris administration has brought more LGBTQ+ visibility and begun undoing the damage of Trump’s anti-LGBTQ policies – from protecting the civil rights of every LGBTQ+ person, to ensuring that LGBTQ+ Americans are leaders at every level of the federal government,” Johnson said.
“Together with you, we have successfully backed more queer, women, people of color candidates to join the White House than ever before,” Johnson told conference participants.
Among the LGBTQ White House appointees, she and Salazar said, are Gina Ortiz Jones, a lesbian and Iraq war veteran serving as the U.S. Undersecretary of the Air Force; Pete Buttigieg, who is serving as the first openly gay Cabinet Secretary confirmed by the U.S. Senate; Admiral Dr. Rachel Levine, who is serving as director of the U.S. Public Health Service at the Department of Health and Human Services and who became the first openly transgender person ever confirmed by the U.S. Senate; Reggie Greer, a Black gay man serving as White House Director of Priority Placement and Senior Adviser on LGBTQ+ Engagement; Ambassador Chantale Yokmin Wong, the U.S. Director of the Asian Development Bank who became the first out lesbian and first LGBTQ person of color with the rank of ambassador in U.S. history; and Mehgan Maury, a former National LGBTQ Task Force official now serving as Senior Adviser to the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau and the first nonbinary member of the Biden administration.
“Contrary to what many would have us believe, we have also made progress in the states,” Johnson stated in her remarks. She and Salazar pointed to bills providing various types of LGBTQ supportive services or protections that have passed in New Jersey, Oregon, Colorado, Washington State, and New Mexico in the past two years.
“And finally, to those of you – advocates, organizers, change makers – in Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Texas and Michigan – thank you for your tireless work and non-stop efforts to stop the devastating bills ravaging their way through your state legislatures and making their way to the desks of your governors,” Johnson said.
“You are showing the country and the world that trans kids matter, that Black Lives Matter, that saying Trans and Bi and Lesbian and Gay matters,” added Johnson. “While we’ve had some setbacks in these sessions, the work you’ve done means those losses are temporary. You are building long-term sustainable power,” Johnson said.
“Together we will use all the tools in our toolbox – from the streets to the courts to the pews and pulpits, to the media to the ballot box – to overturn and overcome these wretched attacks and take back our democracy from extremists who will do anything to sustain the status quo or worse, roll back the gains we’ve won,” according to Johnson.
Following is the text of the full remarks delivered by Kierra Johnson and Mayra Hidalgo Salazar in their LGBTQ State of the Movement Address on March 19 before the Creating Change Conference as provided by the National LGBTQ Task Force:
Johnson: Welcome to the State of the Movement 2022. Convening virtually was not what we envisioned for Creating Change this year. Like you, last spring we were hopeful that we would soon turn a corner and leave our COVID-19 lives behind. Then Delta and Omicron dished a dose of reality that was more devastating than we thought possible. We saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and then swiftly the tunnel got longer, until the light was all but impossible to see.
Johnson: We are now beginning our third year under the cloud of a global pandemic. While we’ve necessarily become pros at adapting to these changing conditions: moving the work forward, getting our kids to school, taking care of elders, navigating other health crises and wearing masks everywhere we go, COVID continues to have a deep impact on our health and well-being and on our community’s ability to fight back. Like you, we also hold the tension of trying to stay focused on how we show up in our work to build a different world, while acknowledging the challenges of shouldering sickness, the passing of friends and family, and the frustration of dreams deferred.
Salazar: And, because we are brilliant, creative and resourceful, we also found new and beautiful ways of building and being in community – like virtual events with magical moments we only dreamed possible, became reality.
Salazar: We are doing this in the face of storms that have kept coming. In just the last year, there have been relentless attacks to gut voting rights, the right to protest, abortion access, and trans youth health and rights. There have been 100 anti-trans bills and over 300 anti LGBTQ bills considered in state legislatures across the nation. And if that wasn’t enough to overwhelm us, the record deportations of immigrants under the Biden administration, the barrage of racial injustice here at home and abroad, and new and ongoing wars and conflicts, have left many of us feeling afraid, disconnected, and powerless. At any given moment, we are experiencing changes moving at an unbearable pace.
Johnson: We know that you are tired. Many of you are afraid and rightfully so. Be tired. Be angry. Be frustrated, confused, sad, be ALL of those things. But I know that I’m talking to a group of people who know that these events, these feelings; they’re not a reason to stop the work — anything but. These are the reasons we do the work. This is why what we do is so important, why you are showing up today, and tomorrow and it is the difference between the light at the end of the tunnel going out entirely, and growing brighter and nearer for us and for generations to come.” Congresswoman Ocasio Cortez recently reminded us that a resigned cynical working class that has given up is exactly what our opponents want. But she also reminds us that things are changing and that it is up to us to share good news and enjoy the good news and remind each other that we are having success and we are winning.
Salazar: Data is showing us that more people are coming out as LGBTQ than ever before and they are coming out earlier, with young people identifying in higher numbers as bisexual and nonbinary. Now some of you may be wondering, is there something in the water?! Of course, the answer is no! But more people coming out and the fluidity in how they identify has everything to do with the work you and we have done and do every single day to build a world where people can embrace themselves—and be embraced—in every facet of their lives.
Johnson: After four years of relentless attacks on LGBTQ+ rights, the Biden-Harris administration has brought more LGBTQ+ visibility and begun undoing the damage of Trump’s anti-LGBTQ policies— from protecting the civil rights of every LGBTQ+ person, to ensuring that LGBTQ+ Americans are leaders at every level of the federal government Together with you, we have successfully backed more queer, women, people of color candidates to join the White House than ever before including:
Salazar: Gina Ortiz Jones, a gay woman and Iraq veteran serves as the 27th U.S. Under Secretary of the Air Force – she identifies as an Ilocano, a member of a Filipino ethnolinguistic group. KJ: Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who is the first openly gay Cabinet Secretary confirmed by the U.S. Senate MHS: Admiral Dr. Rachel Levine, Head of U.S public health efforts at the Department of Health and Human Services, who is the first openly transgender person ever confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Johnson: Reggie Greer, a Black gay man now serves as White House Director of Priority Placement and Senior Advisor on LGBTQ+ Engagement. MHS: Ambassador Chantale Yokmin Wong U.S. Director of the Asian Development Bank, the first out lesbian and first LGBTQ person of color with the rank of ambassador in U.S. history.
Johnson: AND our own Mehgan Maury, who led our Queer the Census campaign and now serves as Senior Advisor to Director Robert Santos at the Census Bureau, the first non-binary member of the administration’s team.
Salazar: And we need more action, support, and resources from the White House to address the escalating attacks on our humanity and our rights. We need progress that goes beyond the preTrump status quo. The rights of LGBTQ+ people must be solidified to capture the full breadth of our experiences and face the onslaught of growing racism, xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia. MHS: And there is a bill in congress right now — The Equality Act – that if passed would move us forward in holding elected officials accountable at the federal level and in every state, expanding and protecting the civil rights of LGBTQ people, people of color and women.
Johnson: With each year more cross-movement, cross issue, cross community partnerships are created, and they are deepening. Whether creating new messages and frames to engage the community and address the state attacks on LGBTQ people, to creating interfaith strategies to assert a progressive religious and spiritual perspective to beat back discriminatory religious exemptions, to inspiring and supporting more BIPOC, Young People and Queer people to vote Commented [MS1]: i don’t want to uplift this as a win, especially while we are at/on the brink of another war Commented [MS2]: moving and advocate directly with legislators, we are fortifying our foundation for the hard work ahead!
Johnson: Contrary to what many would have us believe, we have also made progress in the states! New Jersey enacted a law that adds gender nonbinary to medical data collection. Oregon passed a law to add LGBTQ people to priority populations definition for workforce development programs and increases funding. Colorado passed a bill to support older people from diverse, racial, cultural, socioeconomic, gender and ability groups in community planning; health services and infrastructure.
Salazar: Washington State passed two bills – one that preserves a person’s ability to access abortion care, making the language trans-inclusive. And another that makes incarcerated folx medical records confidential, including for trans-affirming care and gender identity. New Mexico passed a bill to stop LGBTQ people from being blamed for people assaulting or murdering them, barring use of the so-called Panic defense.
Johnson: And finally, to those of you—advocates, organizers, change makers—in Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Texas and Michigan – thank you for your tireless work and non-stop efforts to stop the devastating bills ravaging their way through your state legislatures and making their way to the desks of your Governors. You are showing the country and the world that trans kids matter, that Black lives matter, that saying Trans and Bi and Lesbian and GAY matters. While we’ve had some setbacks in these sessions, the work you’ve done means those losses are temporary. You are building long term sustainable power. Together we will use all the tools in our toolbox— from the streets to the courts to the pews & pulpits, to the media to the ballot box—to overturn and overcome these wretched attacks and take back our democracy from extremists who will do anything to sustain the status quo or worse roll back the gains we’ve won.
Salazar: We are far from powerless. From weighing in on presidential appointments to engaging with civil rights leaders on strategies to ensure that our communities have access to the right to vote. We have been connecting with national and state partners, advising hill staff and Members of Congress and engaging LGBTQ people in a range of issues including the Equality Act and the Texas abortion ban. We have won protections in the workplace and nondiscrimination policies continue to pass in cities and states across the country. Actors, Athletes and musicians are exclaiming their pride and queering the media at every turn igniting a new force of queer and allied activism. Carl Nassib, Kal Penn, Tommy Dorfman, Hikaru Utada, Kehlani and Billy Porter are just a few of the celebrities that have come out in the last year as trans, non-binary, queer, HIV positive, and Pansexual. They are showing up and out as queer pop icons, public figures for a new generation looking for themselves boldly reflected in media, culture and politics. We must remember how we got here. We must celebrate our successes as forward momentum. We have much to be proud of…But we are FAR from done.
Salazar: In January of this year, Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) signed into law the first anti-trans bill of 2022. In doing so, she banned transgender girls from playing school sports. From there it has
been almost impossible to keep up with the barrage of attacks. Arizona, Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, New Hampshire and South Dakota and just a few of the states that introduced measures that target trans and nonbinary youth, their families and their communities.
Johnson: As if that wasn’t enough, in addition to the unabated and unrelenting state attacks on LGBTQ+ legislation, our communities have also been hit with attacks on reproductive rights, voting rights, and the erasure of the history and impact of BIPOC people in this country. In states across the country, the legislature has waged a triple threat of bad bills targeting our access to information, bodily autonomy, and ability to participate in our democracy. These are the foundation of personal, community and political power!
Salazar: The far-right has bemoaned for years that progressives have been trying to “censor” them, it is indeed the far-right taking steps to censor content of all kinds – from critical race theory to LGBTQ inclusive curricula, effectively erasing the diversity of people in this country and any accurate or inclusive understanding of our shared history. Book bans, which seem like an outdated tactic of fascist dictators, are back in style. The simple act of have a rainbow flag or Black Lives Matter sticker on your classroom door, meant to communicate a safe space, is now off the table. Imagine how our young people must feel as they are stripped of the symbols and information that made them feel safe and affirmed.
Johnson: Access to our most basic right to engage in our democracy is also at stake. The right to vote, our right to protest is being suppressed, curtained, blocked and gerrymandered at every turn.
Salazar: Finally, our self-determination and personal agency is also being threatened. Given the sharp rise in anti-LGBTQ laws passed over the last 8 years and what we are seeing now, it is no surprise we’re now experiencing what the American Medical Association has declared “an epidemic of violence against the transgender community,” most notably the skyrocketing rate of murders against trans women of color. The ability to make decision about who you are, how you walk through the world in your truth and have control over your own body are at the core of the anti-trans bills mentioned above and all the attempts to restrict abortion rights and access to reproductive related healthcare.
Johnson: If this feels familiar there is a reason – 40 years ago it was gay & lesbian teachers that were being targeted — today it’s trans kids and their parents.
Salazar: 40 years ago, it was Anita Bryant who was pulling out worn out tropes about “grooming” – and today it is Governors like DeSantis and Abbott recycling these tropes to spread misinformation about our community.
Johnson: 20 years ago, it was gay, lesbian and bisexual people being accused of trying to destroy the sanctity of (Christian) marriage and today it is loving families and allies of LGBTQ youth being accused of taking away “parental rights” when working for the safety and futures of all youth.
Johnson: Any historian or longtime Movement activist will tell you this cycle Is just that – a constant, sometimes subtle, sometimes direct, concerted effort to use queer people, reproductive freedom and democracy as the bait to push the buttons of conscious and unconscious homophobia, transphobia, sexism, misogyny, racism, Christian hegemony and classism in our country.
Johnson: This is our time, our opportunity to commit to building deeply and broadly across movements. To collaborate across issues and communities. We cannot win if we continue to organize in silos and ignore the WHOLE chess board. There is an opportunity to build intersectional partnerships, engage a larger base, and create solutions that have greater impact on more people. We must fight back. Now, for the remainder of this important election year, in every state facing anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice and anti-voting rights legislation.
Johnson: There is a lot at stake in this time but where there are challenges there are opportunities for us to learn, grow and succeed! Our political success will only ever be temporary if we’re not invested in building the power of the people. We win because more and more people are in coalition with us. But we know from the movements that came before ours that to hold onto those successes, our institutions and those in power must be willing to take action with us and we must be vigilant in holding them accountable.
Salazar: Today we are launching Queer the Vote and commit to building a robust and connected base of voters working across issues across communities to rebuild and strengthen our democracy. It is critical that queer people and our allies mobilize to take action, build power and create change whether that’s contacting your elected officials, providing testimony, or donating money and resources. And of course, above all else, if you are eligible, make sure you are registered to vote and turn out at the polls. Claim your power, use your voice, support your community and Queer the Vote!
The kind of change we imagine can take generations, and the Task Force is in this for the long haul – we’ve been at it for almost 50 years, and we won’t stop until we are all free. The pathway to liberation is long and if we are going to make it we must remember what we are working towards. We are organizing for our civil rights. We are demanding that our full humanity is honored and affirmed. And we are fighting for our democracy.
Johnson: We have already imagined the world we want…the world we deserve. Now we must have courage to act with and for our community to bring it into existence. The theme of CC22 is Remixed. A remix: a piece of media which has been altered or contorted from its original state by adding, removing, and/or changing pieces of the item. Our 2022 Creating Change theme Remixed refers not only to having pivoted from an in-person event to a digital one. Remixed is also a vision for how we can evolve as a movement. We have an opportunity to experiment and to play. To be responsive to what is new while benefiting from the wisdom, expertise, and talent of the past. I can’t wait to get back into the studio with you! We look forward to creating new sounds, covering some old tunes and remixing a new movement for the future…by us and for us. Forever together, we are powerful!
Johnson: Be You, Be Well and enjoy the rest of your Creating Change ‘22 remixed experience!
Salazar: Sea tú. Y que lo pasen delicioso. [Be you. And have a delicious time.]
‘Gay marriage, gay sex are going to fall like fucking dominoes’
Anger, fear as protesters decry Supreme Court ruling
Just moments after the U.S. Supreme Court delivered its decision on Friday overturning its landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade that had legalized abortion nationwide for 49 years, hundreds gathered outside the court to both protest and celebrate the ruling.
In a 6-3 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the court found that access to abortion was not a right guaranteed under the language of the Constitution. The ruling effectively reversed the court’s 1973 decision that mandated states to allow the procedure in most instances throughout the first two trimesters of pregnancy.
Immediately following the decision, a group of those welcoming the decision quickly gathered in front of the court.
Anna Lulis, a member of Students for Life of America, welcomed the decision as long overdue.
“I think it is a huge victory for human rights,” Lulis said. “For far too long, since 1973, human rights have been infringed upon at an egregious level.”
Beside Lulis, Olivia Cowin, a member of Survivors LA, shared a similar reason for gathering outside the court.
“This is a celebratory day to show our support of the unborn and of women and support both simultaneously,” Cowin said.
But across the way from the court’s west side, Virginia resident Alysia Dempsey feared what the verdict in Dobbs could mean for women’s rights – including those of her four daughters.
“I believe in women’s rights, and I think that our country needs to be able to start listening to each of our stories and to have empathy for them in so many different aspects,” Dempsey said. “I feel like we’re sort of going back in time with regard to so many rights.”
Hailing from Arizona, a state under Republican legislative leadership where Planned Parenthood has already halted all abortion services pending legal clarity from the state, Hannah Waldrip cast doubt on the sincerity of anti-abortion rationale.
“For a country about personal rights and personal freedom, we’re doing an awful lot right now to limit women’s or people with uterus’ ability to do what they want with their body,” Waldrip said.
Stark divisions between the groups arose as ideological lines could be seen physically emerging between the crowds.
And as the day progressed, those protesting the ruling quickly began to outnumber its supporters.
Among the protesters, the color green – a symbol for abortion rights activists borne out of similar movements in Argentina and elsewhere in Latin America – could be seen lining the street on scarves, shirts, stickers, and elsewhere.
As the crowd grew and green began to eclipse the simmering pavement beneath the protesters, several speakers emerged at the center of the crowd.
One of those speakers was Elizabeth Paige White, a civil rights lawyer working under nationally renowned attorney Ben Crump.
In connecting Friday’s decision to the United States’ history of patriarchal structure, White called into focus the disproportionate effect the repeal of nationwide abortion access is widely expected to have on minorities and communities of color with fewer resources to travel to abortion-friendly states.
“As Black, brown, and all these women out here know, we’ve been fighting for our rights since the inception of this country,” White said. “We have been fighting to have rights over our own bodies since the inception of this country.”
With the repeal of Roe, decisions on whether to legalize or outlaw abortion will now be left to each state. As of Friday’s ruling, 13 states are set to make almost all abortions illegal, having passed “trigger bans” designed to take effect in the immediate aftermath of Roe’s demise or within the next month.
However, many abortion rights supporters, activists, and lawmakers still fear that the curtailing of reproductive rights won’t end with the court’s decision.
Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.) addressed the crowd with a message of urgency and revelation.
“At the end of the day, let me just say, here’s what’s next,” Cortez-Masto said. “I’ve got some of my Republican colleagues based on this decision who are already drafting legislation to restrict abortion in this country. If they win this election, they will pass that legislation and it will preempt all of the state laws we have protecting women in this country when it comes to our right to choose.”
Beyond a nationwide restriction on abortion, some fear even more privacy restrictions are coming.
Such privacy rights have been established in other Supreme Court rulings based on the same Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment that justices used to interpret nationwide abortion rights nearly half a century ago. These cases have included those that established access in all states to contraception, same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, and the right to same-sex relations in the privacy of one’s home.
Among the crowd gathered on Friday, such was a sobering outlook for many.
“Gay marriage, interracial marriage, gay sex are going to fall like fucking dominoes if we let them,” one speaker outside the court said.
Anger and fear could be felt permeating the crowd. Activists, however, were determined to turn their compatriots’ fears into action and change.
“We must get out in the streets,” the speaker said. “We need millions of people all around the country because this affects every single living, breathing person in this country whether they realize it yet or not.”
Among protesters’ trepidation regarding the future of women’s rights and privacy rights in America, many clung to a message of hope as speakers and activists pledged to continue fighting.
“They have worked to keep us down, they worked to keep us enslaved, they worked to keep us out of the polls, they worked to keep us out of political offices, they’ve worked to keep us in the home,” White said. “But we know, as we fought for centuries, that this will not stand.”
LGBTQ activists alarmed over concurring opinion in abortion ruling
Justice Thomas calls for ‘reconsideration’ of marriage, sodomy rulings
LGBTQ activists have expressed alarm over a concurring opinion issued on Friday by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas calling for the high court to “reconsider” previous decisions overturning state sodomy laws and legalizing same-sex marriage as a follow-up to the court’s controversial ruling on Friday to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion rights.
In an action that drew expressions of outrage from abortion rights advocates and strong support by right-to-life advocates, the Supreme Court handed down a 6-3 ruling on Friday overturning the fundamental right to an abortion that the court established nearly 50 years ago in its landmark decision known as Roe v. Wade.
In his concurring opinion, Thomas said he supports the high court’s majority opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. He states that he agrees with the ruling that nothing in the majority opinion “should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.”
But he also states that in potential future cases, “we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.”
He was referring to the past Supreme Court Griswold ruling that overturned state laws banning or restricting birth control such as contraceptives; the high court’s 2003 Lawrence v. Texas ruling that overturned state laws banning sodomy between consenting adults; and the 2015 Obergefell ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
“Justice Thomas’s concurring opinion is obviously concerning, but it is important to note that not one other justice agreed with him,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights advocacy group. “In fact, the majority took pains to disagree with him and clarify that this opinion relates only to abortion. Justice Thomas stands alone,” Warbelow told the Washington Blade in a statement.
“With that said, we know that if the court was willing to overturn 50 years of precedent with this case, that all of our constitutional rights are on the line,” Warbelow said. “Lawmakers will be further emboldened to come after our progress. So, we must be vigilant in protecting our hard-won rights — we’re ready.”
Paul Kawata, executive director of the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC), said the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade would have a “disastrous effect” on healthcare for women, especially women of color. He said the ruling could also lead to future rulings that adversely impact LGBTQ people and other minorities.
“We have no doubt that the conservative supermajority on the court will not stop with Roe,” Kawata said in a statement. “Justice Thomas’s chilling concurring opinion makes it very clear that the court could target other rights provided by the court — marriage equality, contraception access, and LGBTQ+ intimacy in private to name a few,” he said.
Biden labels Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade ‘a sad day for court’
“Imagine, woman having to carry a child that’s a consequence of incest, with no option” to terminate the pregnancy, Biden said
WASHINGTON – Just after the Supreme Court’s conservative majority moved to overturn the constitutional right to abortion on Friday in a 6-3 ruling, President Joe Biden vowed to protect American women from prosecution for traveling to other states to terminate their pregnancies.
Thirteen states have made or will soon make abortion illegal, some without exceptions for rape and incest, following today’s ruling. After a draft of that ruling was leaked in May, some state legislatures considered bills to prevent women from circumventing their restrictions on abortion.
“If any state or local official high or low tries to interfere with a woman exercising her basic right to travel, I will do everything in my power to fight that unamerican attack,” Biden said.
Delivering his remarks from the Great Cross Hall of the White House, the President looked visibly upset, particularly when discussing the extreme abortion bans in some states that will now be allowed to go into effect.
“They are so extreme that women can be punished for protecting their health; that some women and girls will be forced to bear their rapists’ child,” Biden said. It was at this point that he appeared to go off-script to share his personal feelings on the ruling and its implications. “It just stuns me,” he said. “Imagine, woman having to carry a child that’s a consequence of incest, with no option” to terminate the pregnancy.
Biden called for those who share his anger and outrage – many who gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court in protest – to remain peaceful. He urged Americans to vote to give Democrats in Congress the majority that will be necessary for them to codify the constitutional right to abortion first established by the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade and overturned today with the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health.
Biden warned of the “dangerous path the court is taking us on,” pointing to Justice Thomas’s comments in the decision that “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.”
Should the court revisit the precedents established by those cases, it could mean constitutional protections for the return of laws banning birth control, sodomy and same-sex marriage.
Biden noted Americans’ constitutional right to abortion was affirmed in multiple decisions by the Supreme Court, endorsed by justices who were appointed by presidents from both parties.
“It was three justices named by one president, Donald Trump, who were the core of today’s decision to upend the scales of justice and eliminate a fundamental right for women in this country,” Biden said.
President Biden speaks on Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade:
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT BIDEN
ON THE SUPREME COURT DECISION
TO OVERTURN ROE V. WADE
Today is a — it’s not hyperbole to suggest a very solemn moment. Today, the Supreme Court of the United States expressly took away a constitutional right from the American people that it had already recognized.
They didn’t limit it. They simply took it away. That’s never been done to a right so important to so many Americans.
But they did it. And it’s a sad day for the Court and for the country.
Fifty years ago, Roe v. Wade was decided and has been the law of the land since then.
This landmark case protected a woman’s right to choose, her right to make intensely personal decisions with her doctor, free from the inter- — from interference of politics.
It reaffirmed basic principles of equality — that women have the power to control their own destiny. And it reinforced the fundamental right of privacy — the right of each of us to choose how to live our lives.
Now, with Roe gone, let’s be very clear: The health and life of women in this nation are now at risk.
As Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as Vice President and now as President of the United States, I’ve studied this case carefully. I’ve overseen more Supreme Court confirmations than anyone today, where this case was always discussed.
I believe Roe v. Wade was the correct decision as a matter of constitutional law, an application of the fundamental right to privacy and liberty in matters of family and personal autonomy.
It was a decision on a complex matter that drew a careful balance between a woman’s right to choose earlier in her pregnancy and the state’s ability to regulate later in her pregnancy. A decision with broad national consensus that most Americans of faiths and backgrounds found acceptable and that had been the law of the land for most of the lifetime of Americans today.
And it was a constitutional principle upheld by justices appointed by Democrat and Republican Presidents alike.
Roe v. Wade was a 7 to 2 decision written by a justice appointed by a Republican President, Richard Nixon. In the five decades that followed Roe v. Wade, justices appointed by Republican Presidents — from Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, George
W. [H.W.] Bush — were among the justices who voted to uphold the principles set forth in Roe v. Wade.
It was three justices named by one President — Donald Trump — who were the core of today’s decision to upend the scales of justice and eliminate a fundamental right for women in this country.
Make no mistake: This decision is the culmination of a deliberate effort over decades to upset the balance of our law. It’s a realization of an extreme ideology and a tragic error by the Supreme Court, in my view.
The Court has done what it has never done before: expressly take away a constitutional right that is so fundamental to so many Americans that had already been recognized.
The Court’s decision to do so will have real and immediate consequences. State laws banning abortion are automatically taking effect today, jeopardizing the health of millions of women, some without exceptions.
So extreme that women could be punished for protecting their health.
So extreme that women and girls who are forced to bear their rapist’s child — of the child of consequence.
It’s a — it just — it just stuns me.
So extreme that doctors will be criminalized for fulfilling their duty to care.
Imagine having — a young woman having to ch- — carry the child of incest — as a consequence of incest. No option.
Too often the case that poor women are going to be hit the hardest. It’s cruel.
In fact, the Court laid out state laws criminalizing abortion that go back to the 1800s as rationale — the Court literally taking America back 150 years.
This a sad day for the country, in my view, but it doesn’t mean the fight is over.
Let me be very clear and unambiguous: The only way we can secure a woman’s right to choose and the balance that existed is for Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade as federal law.
No executive action from the President can do that. And if Congress, as it appears, lacks the vote — votes to do that now, voters need to make their voices heard.
This fall, we must elect more senators and representatives who will codify a woman’s right to choose into federal law once again, elect more state leaders to protect this right at the local level.
We need to restore the protections of Roe as law of the land. We need to elect officials who will do that.
This fall, Roe is on the ballot. Personal freedoms are on the ballot. The right to privacy, liberty, equality, they’re all on the ballot.
Until then, I will do all in my power to protect a woman’s right in states where they will face the consequences of today’s decision.
While the Court’s decision casts a dark shadow over a large swath of the land, many states in this country still recognize a woman’s right to choose.
So if a woman lives in a state that restricts abortion, the Supreme Court’s decision does not prevent her from traveling from her home state to the state that allows it. It does not prevent a doctor in that state — in that state from treating her.
As the Attorney General has made clear, women must remain free to travel safely to another state to seek the care they need. And my administration will defend that bedrock right.
If any state or local official, high or low, tries to interfere with a woman’s ex- — exercising her basic right to travel, I will do everything in my power to fight that deeply un-American attack.
My administration will also protect a woman’s access to medications that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration — the FDA — like contraception, which is essential for preventative healthcare; mifepristone, which the FDA approved 20 years ago to safely end early pregnancies and is commonly used to treat miscarriages.
Some states are saying that they’ll try to ban or severely restrict access to these medications.
But extremist governors and state legislators who are looking to block the mail or search a person’s medicine cabinet or control a woman’s actions by tracking data on her apps she uses are wrong and extreme and out of touch with the majority of Americans.
The American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists wrote to me and Vice President Harris stressing that these laws are not based on — are not based on evidence and asking us to act to protect access to care. They say by limiting access to these medicines, maternal mortality will climb in America. That’s what they say.
Today, I’m directing the Department of Health and Human Services to take steps to ensure that these critical medications are available to the fullest extent possible and that politicians cannot interfere in the decisions that should be made between a woman and her doctor. And my administration will remain vigilant as the implications of this decision play out.
I’ve warned about how this decision risks the broader right to privacy for everyone. That’s because Roe recognized the fundamental right to privacy that has served as the basis for so many more rights that we have come to take — we’ve come to take for granted that are ingrained in the fabric of this country: the right to make the best decisions for your health; the right to use birth control — a married couple — in the privacy of their bedroom, for God’s sake; the right to marry the person you love.
Now, Justice Thomas said as much today. He explicitly called to reconsider the right of marriage equality, the right of couples to make their choices on contraception. This is an extreme and dangerous path the Court is now taking us on.
Let me close with two points.
First, I call on everyone, no matter how deeply they care about this decision, to keep all protests peaceful. Peaceful, peaceful, peaceful. No intimidation. Violence is never acceptable. Threats and intimidation are not speech. We must stand against violence in any form regardless of your rationale.
Second, I know so many of us are frustrated and disillusioned that the Court has taken something away that’s so fundamental. I know so many women are now going to face incredibly difficult situations. I hear you. I support you. I stand with you.
The consequences and the consensus of the American people — core principles of equality, liberty, dignity, and the stability of the rule of law — demand that Roe should not have been overturned.
With this decision, the conservative majority of the Supreme Court shows how extreme it is, how far removed they are from the majority of this country. They have made the United States an outlier among developed nations in the world. But this decision must not be the final word.
My administration will use all of its appropriate lawful powers. But Congress must act. And with your vote, you can act. You can have the final word. This is not over.
Thank you very much. I’ll have more to say on this in weeks to come. Thank you.
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