The Daily Telegraph

Biden makes midterm abortion rights pledge

US president seeks to bolster election support by placing issue front and centre of his campaign

- By Nick Allen in Washington

JOE BIDEN yesterday vowed that the first thing he would do if Democrats kept control of Congress in the midterm elections would be to sign a law guaranteei­ng the nationwide right to abortion. By making the pledge, Mr Biden sought to make the issue a key one in the midterms, in an attempt to rally Democrat voters, given that his party was falling further behind in polls.

The Democrats had experience­d a surge in support after the US Supreme Court, dominated by Republican­appointed justices, overturned the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling in June. The case had enshrined the nationwide right to abortion and when it was thrown out more than a dozen states introduced bans.

Speaking at a Democrat event in Washington, Mr Biden said: “Here’s the promise I make to you and the American people. The first bill I send to Congress [if we win the midterms] will be to codify Roe v Wade. And when Congress passes it I’ll sign it in January, 50 years after Roe was first [became] the law of the land. We can do this if we vote.”

Mr Biden said 26.5million women of reproducti­ve age were subject to abortion bans and that survivors of rape and incest had been denied terminatio­ns.

He said: “There’s so much confusion and uncertaint­y. Doctors and nurses fear they could face criminal charges for doing their jobs. I want you to remember the final say does not rest in the court. It rests with you. I’ll do my part.”

Mr Biden’s attempt to drive Democrats to the ballot box came as polls showed Republican­s were leading, and the economy was increasing­ly seen as the most important issue by voters.

A New York Times-siena College poll on Monday gave the Republican­s a lead of four points (49 per cent to 45 per cent) over the Democrats. In the same poll last month Democrats led by a point. It also found 44 per cent of voters believed the economy was the main issue, up from 36 per cent in July.

Wavering female voters have moved sharply to the Republican­s over the past month, as inflation and petrol prices rose, but Democrat strategist­s suggested they may have peaked too soon, having spent large amounts on TV advertisin­g early in the campaign. Republican adverts highlighti­ng the economy and crime rates are dominating political debate.

Mr Biden warned that the Republican­s may try to introduce a nationwide ban on abortion if they win control of Congress, and vowed to veto any such attempt.

Democrats have a slim majority in the House of Representa­tives. The Senate is split 50-50 but Democrats control it because Kamala Harris, the Vice-president, holds a casting vote.

Republican­s are expected to win the House in the midterms, but the Senate outcome is on a knife edge.

Keeping control of both chambers of Congress would not be enough for Mr Biden to secure a law protecting abortion rights. The Senate would also need to abolish the filibuster, a rule that requires most bills to secure 60 votes in the 100-seat chamber to pass.

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