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Alluding to Trump, Biden calls out Republicans 'bragging' about abortion bans

Amanda Zurawski, a guest to the State of the Union of Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., speaks during a news conference held by members of the Pro-Choice Caucus and Democratic Women's Caucus at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday.
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Amanda Zurawski, a guest to the State of the Union of Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., speaks during a news conference held by members of the Pro-Choice Caucus and Democratic Women's Caucus at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday.

Follow NPR's live updates on the State of the Union address.

In a likely preview of Democratic messaging in the presidential election, President Biden made abortion rights a major focus of his State of the Union address.

"Those bragging about overturning Roe v. Wade have no clue about the power of women," Biden said, taking aim at the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling which overturned decades of abortion-rights precedent in 2022.

Alluding to former President Donald Trump as his "predecessor," Biden said, "He's the reason Roe was overturned, and he bragged about it."

Trump, Biden's presumptive Republican rival in November, has indeed bragged about his role in choosing three conservative Supreme Court justices who were instrumental in that decision — a campaign promise Trump had made in 2016.

Biden pointed to Democratic victories following the Dobbs decision, such as ballot initiatives in several states where voters signaled support for abortion rights, warning that opponents of abortion rights "found out" when voters went to the polls in 2022 and 2023, "and they will again in 2024."

Exit polling has shown abortion to be a top issuefor many voters in those recent elections, particularly those from key voting blocs for Democrats, such as women, younger voters and voters of color.

Biden also made a push for down-ballot Democrats, promising, that if Americans elect members of Congress that support abortion rights "I promise you: I will restore Roe v. Wade as the law of the land again."

Both Republicans and Democrats have proposed national abortion-related legislation, but currently neither party has the votes to pass either a national ban as some Republicans want or national protections as Biden is calling for.

Several guests invited to attend the speech also helped to highlight the erosion of abortion rights in recent years. Among them are Kate Cox, who sued the state of Texas after she was denied an emergency abortion under state law, and Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an Indiana OB-GYN who found herself in the national spotlight in 2022 after providing a medication abortion for a 10-year-old rape victim who'd had to travel there after an abortion ban took effect in her home state of Ohio.

Also in attendance was Latorya Beasley, a patient from Birmingham whose fertility treatment was canceled after a decision from the Alabama Supreme Court that prompted Republicans across the country to scramble to adjusttheir messaging and, in Alabama, to pass new state legislation designed to restore access to the procedure known as IVF.

In his speech, Biden said the Alabama decision had been "unleashed by a Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade."

Biden's focus on reproductive rights comes after some of his critics on the left have accused him offering weak support for abortion rights. The administration has been stepping up its focuson abortion in recent weeks and promising to make abortion a campaign issue.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.
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