A leaked US Supreme Court draft that suggests it may overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling that legalised abortion sent Democrats scrambling on Tuesday, with members of Congress and activists looking for some way to mitigate the effects of such a decision.
The court confirmed that the document was authentic and emphasised "it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case", after Politico released the draft as part of a news report on Monday evening.
Chief Justice John Roberts ordered an investigation into the leak as part of the court's statement.
“I believe that a woman’s right to choose is fundamental. Roe has been the law of the land for almost 50 years and basic fairness and the stability of our law demand that it not be overturned,” read Mr Biden’s statement.
The White House said that it will be ready should there be a ruling issued and added that preparations for such an eventuality began when the state of Texas signed a restrictive abortion bill into law.
“Shortly after the enactment of Texas law SB 8 and other laws restricting women’s reproductive rights, I directed my Gender Policy Council and White House Counsel’s Office to prepare options for an administration response to the continued attack on abortion and reproductive rights, under a variety of possible outcomes in the cases pending before the Supreme Court,” Mr Biden’s statement said.
Were it to be overturned, Mr Biden said that protecting a woman’s choice will fall on nationally elected officials and voters.
“At the federal level, we will need more pro-choice senators and a pro-choice majority in the House to adopt legislation that codifies Roe, which I will work to pass and sign into law,” Mr Biden said.
California Governor Gavin Newsom said that his state would propose an amendment in the state's constitution to “enshrine the right to choose".
“We can't trust [the court] to protect the right to abortion, so we’ll do it ourselves,” Mr Newsom said on Twitter.
A bill that would have protected the right to abortion nationally died in Congress early this year as Democrats' razor-thin majority was not enough to overcome Senate rules requiring a supermajority to agree on most legislation.
In the absence of federal action, states have passed a series of abortion-related laws. Republican-led states have moved swiftly, with new restrictions passed in six states this year.
Three Democratic-led states have passed measures aimed at protecting abortion rights.
Abortion is one of the most divisive issues in US politics, with a 2021 poll by the Pew Research Centre finding that 59 per cent of American adults believe it should be legal in all or most cases and 39 per cent thinking it should be illegal in all or most cases.
Reuters contributed to this report