President Joe Biden was direct during a panel discussion Tuesday, asking, "What century are we in?' while calling on Americans on to get behind lawmakers who support legislation to ensure equal access to abortion across the country. Photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 4 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden called on Americans on Tuesday to support lawmakers who would support future legislation to ensure equal access to abortion across the country.
"The [Supreme] Court got Roe [vs. Wade] right 50 years ago. Congress should codify the protections of Roe and do it once and for all," the president said during a meeting of the Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access in the State Dining Room of the White House.
"But right now, we're short a handful of votes. So the only way it's going to happen is if the American people make it happen."
Biden joined Vice President Kamala Harris, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona at a panel discussion, aimed at galvanizing electoral support ahead of the midterm elections in November.
"Folks, what century are we in? I mean what are we doing? We're talking about contraception here. It shouldn't be that controversial," Biden said, taking aim at the University of Idaho's new policy of not providing birth control for students.
Biden said he is doing everything possible in his capacity, though the federal government's power is limited in this situation, he noted.
"I have asked Education Secretary Cardona to look at the steps we can take to protect college students and school employees in Idaho or other states where the access to contraception is at risk," Biden said.
"It's no surprise that we're seeing extremist laws pop up around the country that are having a ripple effect far beyond the health rights of a pregnant woman. Many of these laws will make doctors criminals just for treating a patient."
Added Cardona: "I share your grave concerns about maintaining access to contraception and reproductive health services on our college campuses.
Tuesday marked 100 days since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its 1973 opinion in Roe vs. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide.
Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta chairs the task force, whose mission is to monitor state and local bans on abortion for overreach.
"My message to folks across the country who are worried about what we're seeing is that we have your back. We're not going to step back from this," Biden said.
Abortion bans have taken effect in more than 12 states since the ruling. Almost 30 million women of reproductive age live in one of those jurisdictions, according to a White House report Biden and Harris mentioned Tuesday.
"If there were a national law, that was passed in the United States Congress to protect reproductive care, so-called leaders then could not ban abortion. Even in the case of rape and incest. They could not criminalize providers. So it is important for everyone to know what is at stake," Harris said during her opening remarks.
The Department of Health and Human Services is to release $6 million in grant funding to expand access to reproductive health services, the Washington Post reported.
"As the President has repeatedly said, the only way to fully protect women's access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care, including abortion, is for Congress to pass a law codifying the protections of Roe v. Wade," states a copy of the report, drafted by White House Gender Policy Council director Jennifer Klein and obtained by the Washington Post.
"Republicans in Congress have blocked that -- and Republican elected officials at the state and national level have taken extreme steps to block women's access to health care."
Biden signed an executive order in August aimed at making it easier for women to cross state lines to secure an abortion.
The president signed a previous order in July, with the goal of protecting the right to abortion drugs and emergency contraception.