Joe Biden said an “out-of-control” US Supreme Court was guilty of exercising “raw political power” in a rare partisan attack on the once venerated institution on Friday
“What we’re witnessing wasn’t a constitutional judgement, it was an exercise in raw political power,” Mr Biden said as he quoted from the dissenting opinion of the court’s liberal minority.
He added: “We cannot allow an out-of-control Supreme Court, working in conjunction with extremist elements of the Republican Party, to take away freedoms and our personal autonomy.”
With abortion bans now in force in large swathes of the US, Mr Biden said Americans faced a choice “between the mainstream and the extreme” in November’s congressional elections.
The barbed remarks reflected Mr Biden’s growing frustration with the 6-3 conservative court, which has throttled significant parts of his agenda in recent rulings.
Mr Biden, who came to office seeking to rebuild trust and consensus among the branches of government, had previously shied away from political attacks on the country’s highest court.
But he has faced mounting pressure from within his own party to take a blowtorch to the court following its recent decision to overturn Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling enshrining nationwide abortion rights, and a separate ruling dealing a blow to the president’s climate agenda.
The president condemned the decision to strike down Roe v Wade as “terrible, extreme” and “totally wrongheaded” as he announced his executive order on abortion on Friday.
Mr Biden accused the court’s conservative justices of “playing fast and loose with the facts”, saying the decision was not “driven by the Constitution” or a reflection of historical access to abortion in America.
“The practice of medicine should not be frozen in the 19th century,” he said.
Mr Biden’s executive order will attempt to safeguard access to abortion pills and emergency contraception.
It also seeks to protect patient privacy and set up a network of volunteer lawyers amid the criminalisation of abortions in dozens of states, and efforts by conservative officials to prevent women seeking care outside their home state.
But critics said the executive order offered limited measures to counteract the effects of the Supreme Court ruling.
The executive order came in response to Democrats’ criticism of Mr Biden’s inaction.
Mr Biden had been largely silent on the issue since the Supreme Court ruling in late June, suggesting he was powerless to restore constitutional protections for abortion and instead urging Congress to pass legislation on reproductive rights.
The attempt to defer the issue to Capitol Hill angered some of Mr Biden’s allies, given his party lacks the majority required to pass such legislation.
Democratic lawmakers have urged the president to instead open abortion clinics on federal land or support efforts to expand the Supreme Court to steamroll its conservative justices.
The White House has dismissed both suggestions as unworkable.
Mr Biden alluded to the criticism of him within his party as he addressed reporters at the White House on Friday.
“I know it’s frustrating and it made a lot of people very angry,” he said but added that an increased Democratic majority in Congress was the “fastest route” to restore a woman’s right to choose.
Mr Biden said the Supreme Court and “extreme” Republicans did not have “a clue about the power of American women”, adding “but they’re about to find out”.
He said: “It’s my hope and strong belief that women will turn out in record numbers to reclaim the rights that have [been] taken from them.”
Mr Biden’s criticisms appear to chime with recent polls which show Americans’ confidence in the Supreme Court is at a historic low.
A Gallup poll released shortly before the court’s abortion ruling found just 25 per cent of adults expressed “a great deal” of confidence in the institution, down from 36 per cent a year ago and five percentage points lower than the previous low recorded in 2014.
Separate polls in the wake of the overturning of Roe v Wade show the majority of Americans disagree with the ruling.
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