Joe Biden speaks from a podium, holding his hands up with a "wait a minute" gesture

Why Does the White House Think It’s a Good Idea to Insult Abortion Activists Right Now?

Joe Biden’s response to the fall of Roe v Wade has been maddeningly tepid. Sure, he’s said some nice words and he did sign a reproductive rights-based executive order, even though it, too, was mostly just more nice words rather than concrete immediate action. And no, he can’t singlehandedly codify abortion rights into law. But there are a lot of things he could be doing, especially given the fact that this crisis was not a sudden surprise. He, like every other Democrat in office—not to mention the rest of us—had nearly two months to prepare between the time a draft of the Supreme Court decision was leaked and when the official decision was handed down.

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A lot of people are frustrated with the Biden administration’s lack of hard action and that administration would like us to know that they simply do not care.

A recent report from the Washington Post details just how miffed the administration is that we’re not all showering them with flowers and gratitude for falling far short of the necessary response in this time of real urgency.

White House officials defend the urgency of Biden’s response and the actions he has taken on abortion, which they argue are in step with mainstream opinion. “The president has been showing his deep outrage as an American and executing his bold plan — which is the product of months of hard work — ever since this decision was handed down,” White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said in a statement Saturday.

“Joe Biden’s goal in responding to Dobbs is not to satisfy some activists who have been consistently out of step with the mainstream of the Democratic Party. It’s to deliver help to women who are in danger and assemble a broad-based coalition to defend a woman’s right to choose now, just as he assembled such a coalition to win during the 2020 campaign,” she said.

That comment about having to satisfy “some activists” comes off as incredibly insulting and downright spiteful. Exactly who are these activists that Bedingfield and, presumably by extension, her boss, think are so far out of line? What are those demands they’re unwilling to meet, that she implies are too extreme for a “broad-based coalition” to get on board with? What action is there that is within Biden’s power to do right now that is too extreme? I’m having trouble thinking of a single one, and I also can’t imagine how they thought it was a good idea to sneer at the activists doing the actual important work right now.

Biden told reporters this weekend that he encourages activism, saying, “Keep protesting. Keep making your point. It’s critically important.” But he also said, “We can do a lot of things to accommodate the rights of women. In the meantime, fundamentally, the only way to change this is to have a national law that reinstates Roe v Wade,” which simply isn’t true. That might be the goal but in the meantime, there is much he can do. He’s just made it clear he’s not willing to do it.

(image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)


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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.