Biden campaigns on abortion in Florida

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Biden abortion
U.S. President Joe Biden reiterates his administration's commitment to restoring Roe v. Wade during a campaign stop at Hillsborough Community College's Dale Mabry campus in Tampa, Fla., April 23, 2024. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2022 overturned Roe, which had legalized abortion nationwide, and returned the abortion issue to the legislature. (OSV News photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

(OSV News) — President Joe Biden reiterated his administration’s commitment to restoring Roe v. Wade as he campaigned in Florida April 23, a pitch his campaign has argued could help Democrats carry the state in a presidential election for the first time in over a decade.

During remarks in Tampa, Biden argued that some state-level abortion restrictions passed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision in June 2022 are the result of his rival’s actions while in office, as former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, seeks to distance himself from the issue of abortion.

President Biden reaffirms commitment to Roe v. Wade restoration

Biden’s speech was notable because, despite the president’s stated support for federal abortion protections and his campaign’s embrace of that call, he has largely relied on Vice President Kamala Harris to discuss the issue on the campaign trail.

Trump recently stated his opposition to implementing federal abortion restrictions should he be elected to another term in 2024, arguing abortion should be left to individual states to legislate and disappointing some pro-life activists who had sought a commitment from him to support a 15-week limit on elective abortions. But Biden noted Trump took credit for the Dobbs decision overturning Roe, which had legalized abortion nationwide.

“Trump bragged how proud he was to get rid of Roe v. Wade,” Biden said. “He took credit for it.”

Biden further argued that abortion is a federal issue, not one to be delegated to the states.

“He says it’s up to the states, this is all about state rights. But he’s wrong. The Supreme Court was wrong. It should be a constitutional right in the federal Constitution and federal rights. And it shouldn’t matter where in America it is, this isn’t about states rights, it’s about women’s rights.”

Making his speech on abortion in Florida also was notable because that state’s Supreme Court earlier in April simultaneously upheld that its Constitution does not protect abortion access while also allowing a proposed amendment seeking to add such protections to that document to qualify for the Sunshine State’s November ballot.

The Florida high court upheld the state’s 15-week ban on abortion April 1, which also in effect allowed the state to enforce a six-week ban known as The Heartbeat Protection Act, which was signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in April 2023, and was on pause pending the ruling.

Political strategy in Florida

Biden campaign officials have indicated that they see Florida as in play for them in November, despite the purple state growing more red over the past decade, including voting to reelect both Trump and DeSantis in 2020 and 2022, respectively. The last time Florida voted for a Democratic presidential candidate was in 2012 when then-President Barack Obama defeated Republican Mitt Romney by a margin of less than 1%. But Biden campaign surrogates have argued that having the issue of abortion on the ballot could motivate their base, although some analysts have noted the Biden campaign has yet to make significant investments in Florida.

During the speech, Biden also took aim at Trump for selling branded Bibles.

“I almost wanted to buy one just to see what the hell’s in it,” Biden quipped.

Tension between Biden and U.S. bishops on abortion stance

Biden, who is the nation’s second Catholic president, has occasionally butted heads with some U.S. bishops over his public position on abortion.

The Catholic Church teaches that all human life is sacred from conception to natural death, opposing direct abortion as an act of violence that takes the life of the unborn child.

After the Dobbs decision, Church officials in the United States have reiterated the Church’s concern for both mother and child, and called to strengthen streams of streams of financial or other practical support addressing causes that can push women toward having an abortion.

Kate Scanlon

Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington.