Democrats worry that they lack a plan to fight back in Roe v. Wade

Democrats worry that their party lacks a clear plan to roll back what is sure to be a spate of abortion restrictions in the wake of a draft Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade.

While one Democrat after another has shouted about the possibility that a conservative Supreme Court could gut abortion rights, strategists say little is offered in terms of a clear way to fight back.

Some also say that the party was not ready for something that was clearly ahead.

“Why are we so far behind on this? Where is the plan? We knew this was coming in theory since Coney Barrett joined the court, and in practice since December,” said Democratic strategist Christy Setzer.

“I don’t want to hear empty rhetoric about how ‘we’re not coming back,’ I want to hear that there is a legislative or federal plan to change things,” he added.

President Biden and Vice President Harris have criticized the leaked draft opinion. In an impassioned speech at the EMILY’s List gala on Tuesday night, Harris declared that women’s rights were under attack, anticipating the party’s midterm message from him.

Strategists say the rage is real. But they are concerned that the party has no real strategy.

“We are all very angry, but now what? What’s the plan? Unfortunately, I don’t think we have one,” said one strategist. “There’s a lot of talk about ‘We can’t let this happen.’ But I don’t think anyone knows what to do next.”

There are significant limits to what the White House and Democrats in Congress can do if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade and the Republican states begin to ban abortion rights.

Previous efforts to codify abortion rights into law have failed, and Democrats don’t have the votes in Congress to overcome a filibuster.

“I think their options are very limited, and what I have been advising is that the White House focus on winnable battles,” said Lawrence Gostin, a professor of public health law at Georgetown University.

While some progressive Democrats have renewed their push to crack down on legislative filibuster, Biden won’t be joining that effort, at least not yet. Instead, he has called on voters to elect more pro-abortion Democrats to Congress, a message echoed throughout his administration.

Democrats may not even have 50 votes to codify abortion rights. Sen. Joe Manchin (RW.Va.), a self-described pro-life Democrat, voted against promoting the Women’s Health Protection Act earlier this year.

Biden has directed the Gender Policy Council and the White House counsel’s office to develop a response plan in preparation for a Supreme Court ruling, but it’s too early to tell what that plan will entail. Any step could also face legal challenges from Republican attorneys general.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that the administration will not release its plan until after the final opinion is released, mindful of not getting ahead of the official ruling expected in the next two months.

“We do not have a final conclusion. The Supreme Court itself made it clear that this is not the final opinion,” Psaki said. “We are already doing a lot of work behind the scenes and we will have more to say.”

Psaki said officials across the administration are focused on helping those who will be most affected by the ruling, including women of color and poorer Americans who will face greater financial challenges accessing abortions if Roe is struck down and states enact restrictions. The White House believes as many as 26 states will move to restrict abortion if the draft opinion is upheld.

Gostin offered that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could prepare a report on the physical and mental consequences for women of not having access to safe and legal abortions. She also said the Food and Drug Administration could expand its guidance on the use of abortion pills, such as specifying where people can safely order them.

He also said that Biden is considering allowing the use of Medicaid funds to pay for time off and travel for women who need to travel out of state for abortions.

The administration’s actions so far have offered little comfort to frustrated Democrats.

Some progressives are calling for more aggressive action, including renewing a controversial push to expand the number of justices on the Supreme Court.

“We are not powerless,” Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) said on an organizing call for the progressive advocacy group Demand Justice Wednesday night. “There are two things we need to do to protect and preserve our democracy: One, we need to get rid of the filibuster, and two, we need to add some seats to the Supreme Court of the United States.”

Meanwhile, a coalition of organizations including Planned Parenthood, MoveOn and the Women’s March announced plans Thursday to hold marches in four major cities, including Washington, DC, as part of a coordinated effort to protest the upcoming ruling.

The White House has pointed to steps the administration has already taken, such as creating $6.6 million in grants for family planning services and emergency contraception for people in states with restrictive laws.

“We are going to redouble efforts to make sure that the legal rights of all American women to access the care to which they are entitled continue,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra told lawmakers at a hearing in the Senate. week.

Gostin said the White House was not prepared for the uproar created by the leaked draft opinion earlier this week.

“The leak has really made this a huge public and political issue, even bigger than actual opinion would have been,” he said. “It has caused a huge political tsunami.”

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