Biden Runs on Reproductive Rights as Movement Fractures Over Gaza

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at a Democratic National Committee event at the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C. on October 18, 2022.

(Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Biden Runs on Reproductive Rights as Movement Fractures Over Gaza

"Kamala and I will restore Roe v. Wade and make it once again the law of the land. Donald Trump will ban abortion nationwide. That is what is at stake this November," the Democratic president warns.

"Freedom. Personal freedom is fundamental to who we are as Americans. There's nothing more important. Nothing more sacred. That's been the work of my first term."

That's how U.S. President Joe Biden began the video launch of his reelection campaign last year—and now, with the primary season underway, the Democrat continues to emphasize the importance of freedom and the related issue of reproductive healthcare.

The Republican front-runner, former President Donald Trump, and his MAGA movement have made clear that they are foes of abortion rights and other reproductive justice priorities, but Biden has work to do to win over some frustrated voters, including those outraged about the maternal health crisis created by the U.S.-backed Israeli war on the Gaza Strip.

Biden is backed by national groups such as EMILY's List, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and Reproductive Freedom for All, but the devastation of Gaza has caused a "growing rift in the reproductive rights movement," HuffPost's Alanna Vagianos reported Friday.

Vagianos pointed to the January rally marking what would have been the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade—the landmark abortion rights ruling overturned in June 2022 by the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court to which Trump appointed three justices:

The president was interrupted over a dozen times as security struggled to wrangle protesters who were screaming "Genocide Joe!" and demanding a cease-fire. Hundreds of Biden supporters tried to drown out the protesters by clapping and chanting, "Four more years!"

"Israel kills two mothers every hour in Gaza! Cease-fire now! End the genocide!" one protester yelled at Biden, who was standing on stage in front of a massive "Restore Roe" banner and flanked by supporters holding "Defend choice" signs.

A video of the event shows Alexis McGill Johnson, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, clad in her trademark hot-pink pantsuit, standing up and chanting "Four more years!" as security dragged the shouting protester out.

" HuffPost spoke with over a dozen people who work for reproductive justice causes―including current Planned Parenthood employees, legal experts, nurse midwives, abortion fund workers, and clinic staffers from across the country―who say that Biden's unwavering support for Israel has fractured the movement," Vagianos added. "The rift has left those who support Palestinians to feel ostracized by the larger reproductive rights groups and questioning whether they can vote for Biden in November."

Frustration with Biden's response to what other world leaders and legal scholars are calling Israel's genocidal war on Gaza—which has killed nearly 29,000 Palestinians—is far from limited to those campaigning for or working in reproductive healthcare.

"Right now, we feel completely neglected and just unseen by our government," U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the only Palestinian American in Congress, said in a Saturday video supporting the Listen to Michigan campaign, which is urging Democrats to vote uncommitted in the February 27 presidential primary to send Biden a message on Gaza.

Michigan has large numbers of Arab and Muslim Americans. It is also a swing state where residents narrowly supported Biden over Trump in 2020. Two years later, just after the Roe reversal, they voted to enshrine abortion rights in the state's constitution.

After The New York Timesreported Friday that "Trump has told advisers and allies that he likes the idea of a 16-week national abortion ban" with exceptions for rape, incest, or saving the pregnant person's life, Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer joined Biden allies in advocating for reelecting him and Vice President Kamala Harris "to protect reproductive rights."

In a Friday statement about the reporting, Biden said that " Roe v. Wade is no longer the law of the land. And that's because of one person: Donald Trump. In fact, Trump brags about being the one to overturn Roe."

"Kamala and I will restore Roe v. Wade and make it once again the law of the land. Donald Trump will ban abortion nationwide. That is what is at stake this November," he added. "Our democracy. Our fundamental freedoms."

The Times then reported Saturday that Trump allies and former officials "are planning ways to restrict abortion rights if he returns to power that would go far beyond proposals for a national ban or the laws enacted in conservative states across the country."

As the newspaper detailed:

In policy documents, private conversations, and interviews, the plans described by former Trump administration officials, allies, and supporters propose circumventing Congress and leveraging the regulatory powers of federal institutions, including the Department of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Justice, and the National Institutes of Health.

The effect would be to create a second Trump administration that would attack abortion rights and abortion access from a variety of angles and could be stopped only by courts that the first Trump administration had already stacked with conservative judges.

Biden campaign manager Julie Chávez Rodríguez responded that "it's never been clearer what the American people can expect from Donald Trump: If given power, he will circumvent Congress and further rip away women's healthcare, including attempting to unilaterally institute a national abortion ban. These plans are as terrifying as they are unsurprising."

Leaders of national groups also weighed in with comments circulated by Biden's campaign. McGill Johnson called Trump "a disaster for democracy and a disaster for sexual and reproductive healthcare," while EMILY's List interim president Jessica Mackler declared that "there is a clear choice in November: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, who have worked consistently to protect our rights, or Donald Trump and his Republican allies, who want to take our decisions and our rights away."

Reproductive Freedom for All president and CEO Mini Timmaraju said: "The most chilling part of the playbook of horrors Trump's advisers have cooked up is how confident they are that he can do untold damage in a second term—with or without Congress. If they have another opportunity, they'll act on it, and the consequences will be unimaginable."

As Common Dreamsreported earlier this month, Biden has centered his support for abortion rights on the campaign trail but also come under fire for some recent remarks. While fundraising in New York City—where he faced Gaza-related protests—he said: "I'm a practicing Catholic. I don't want abortion on demand but I thought Roe v. Wade was right."

Renee Bracey Sherman, an organizer and abortion storyteller, said that "if Biden insists on hinging his entire campaign on abortion because it's more popular than he is, it would behoove him to actually use the messaging that we use to talk about abortion, without stigma, rather than throwing all of us who had abortions on demand under the bus."

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