President Biden on Wednesday criticized Texas' new fetal heartbeat bill as "extreme" and said he remains "deeply committed" to keeping abortion legal nationwide.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris each released statements on the new Texas law, which requires doctors to check for a fetal heartbeat and prohibits an abortion if one is detected. It allows exceptions for medical emergencies.
An unborn baby typically has a heartbeat around six weeks into a pregnancy.
The comments by Biden and Harris came hours before the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, declined to block the law. Abortion rights groups in Texas say the law impacts about 85 percent of abortions.
"This extreme Texas law blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v. Wade and upheld as precedent for nearly half a century," Biden said in a statement. "The Texas law will significantly impair women's access to the health care they need, particularly for communities of color and individuals with low incomes. … My administration is deeply committed to the constitutional right established in Roe v. Wade nearly five decades ago and will protect and defend that right."
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden will "continue to call for the codification of Roe."
The law's unique structure has made it difficult to challenge in court by abortion-rights groups. Instead of requiring state officials to enforce the law -- as is always the case -- the law leaves enforcement up to private citizens. The law allows a citizen to sue anyone who "performs or induces an abortion" or "knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion."
The law allows civil damages of at least $10,000 for each suit.
"Texas has compelling interests from the outset of a woman's pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman and the life of the unborn child," the law says.
Harris, in her statement, called it an "all-out assault on reproductive health."
"The Biden-Harris Administration will always fight to protect access to healthcare and defend a woman's right to make decisions about her body and determine her future," Harris said.
Lila Rose, president of the pro-life group Live Action, said the law is a "historic step forward for basic human rights." Pro-life groups, she added, will stand in the gap to assist women.
"Dozens of life-affirming pregnancy centers all around the state stand by with the resources and compassion to ensure every mother and father are equipped to care for their children and families," Rose said. "The pro-life movement will continue fighting until every single child is protected in law and supported to live out her full potential."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Mark Makela/Stringer
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.