Biden to assess possible federal response to Texas abortion ban

President BidenJoe BidenWhite House: Window for finalizing sweeping budget package 'closing' Jayapal says tuition-free community college 'probably won't' be in spending plan Jan. 6 panel votes to hold Bannon in contempt MORE on Thursday said he is directing his administration to look into ways to protect abortion access for women in Texas after the Supreme Court refused to block the state's law that bans almost all abortions

Biden decried the 5-4 decision as an "unprecedented assault" on a woman's right to an abortion under the precedent of Roe v. Wade and warned it will result in harmful consequences for millions of women in the nation's second most populous state.

"By allowing a law to go into effect that empowers private citizens in Texas to sue health care providers, family members supporting a woman exercising her right to choose after six weeks, or even a friend who drives her to a hospital or clinic, it unleashes unconstitutional chaos and empowers self-anointed enforcers to have devastating impacts," Biden said in a statement.

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"For the majority to do this without a hearing, without the benefit of an opinion from a court below, and without due consideration of the issues, insults the rule of law and the rights of all Americans to seek redress from our courts," Biden added. "Rather than use its supreme authority to ensure justice could be fairly sought, the highest Court of our land will allow millions of women in Texas in need of critical reproductive care to suffer while courts sift through procedural complexities."

The Texas bill at issue was signed into law in May by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and took effect Wednesday. It prohibits abortions after the presence of a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur as early as six weeks into pregnancy, and only makes exceptions for medical emergencies. Rather than having the state enforce the ban, the law authorizes private citizens to sue those who perform or aid the procedure.

The White House on Wednesday said the proper recourse to ensure abortion access would be for Congress to codify Roe v. Wade. But Biden on Thursday signaled his administration would take unilateral action where possible.

The president said he was asking the Gender Policy Council and White House Counsel to "launch a whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision, looking specifically to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice to see what steps the Federal Government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe, and what legal tools we have to insulate women and providers from the impact of Texas' bizarre scheme of outsourced enforcement to private parties."

The impact of the law was already felt in Texas by late Wednesday, according to abortion providers, who said they were complying with the new state law by not offering abortions following the detection of fetal cardiac activity. The groups estimate that about 85 to 90 percent of women who get an abortion in Texas are at least six weeks into their pregnancy, a point at which many people do not even realize they are pregnant.

Groups and providers challenging the law argued the law violates the precedent set by Roe v. Wade. The five conservative justices in the majority said abortion providers had failed to make a persuasive case for the court to step in but added that the challengers had raised “serious questions” about the law’s constitutionality.