Published: 09:33, July 9, 2022 | Updated: 09:35, July 9, 2022
Biden signs executive order on abortion

US President Joe Biden attends an event on fighting "ghost guns" crimes at the White House in Washington, DC April 11, 2022. (PHOTO/XINHUA)

WASHINGTON - US President Joe Biden said the Supreme Court decision overturning the right to an abortion was an exercise in "raw political power" and signed an executive order on Friday to ease access to services to terminate pregnancies.

Biden, a Democrat, has been under pressure from his own party to take action after the landmark decision last month to overturn Roe v Wade, which upended roughly 50 years of protections for women's reproductive rights.

What we're witnessing wasn't a constitutional judgment, it was an exercise in raw political power.

Joe Biden, US President

The order directs the government's health department to expand access to "medication abortion" – pills prescribed to end pregnancies – and ensure women have access to emergency medical care, family planning services and contraception. It also mentions protecting doctors, women who travel for abortions and mobile abortion clinics at state borders.

READ MORE: US Supreme Court strikes down abortion rights

But it offered few specifics and promises to have limited impact in practice, since US states can make laws restricting abortion and access to medication.

"What we're witnessing wasn't a constitutional judgment, it was an exercise in raw political power," Biden told reporters at the White House. "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."

The White House is not publicly entertaining the idea of reforming the court itself or expanding the nine-member panel.

Instead, Biden laid out how abortion rights could be codified into law by voters if they elected "two additional pro-choice senators, and a pro-choice House" and urged women to turn out in record numbers to vote. He said he would veto any law passed by Republicans to ban abortion rights nationwide.

Jen Klein, director of the president’s Gender Policy Council at the White House, did not name any specifics when asked what the order would change for women.

"You can’t solve by executive action what the Supreme Court has done," she said.

‘First steps’

The issue may help drive Democrats to the polls in the November midterm elections, when Republicans have a chance of taking control of Congress

Still, progressive lawmakers and abortion rights groups welcomed the directive. Senator Elizabeth Warren called it "important first steps," and asked the administration to explore every available option to protect abortion rights.

The issue may help drive Democrats to the polls in the November midterm elections, when Republicans have a chance of taking control of Congress.

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Protecting abortion rights is a top issue for women Democrats, Reuters polling shows, and more than 70 percent of Americans think the issue should be left to a woman and her doctor. 

The Supreme Court's ruling restored states' ability to ban abortion. As a result, women with unwanted pregnancies face the choice of traveling to another state where the procedure remains legal and available, buying abortion pills online, or having a potentially dangerous illegal abortion.