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President Joe Biden greets the audience after speaking at a political event at the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022.

President Joe Biden greets the audience after speaking at a political event at the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022. (Yuri Gripas, Abaca Press/TNS)

WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — With renewed concerns about the economy seeming to boost Republicans’ chances in next month’s midterm elections, President Joe Biden spoke pointedly about abortion Tuesday in an effort to remind voters what’s at stake for women and families.

With exactly three weeks until Election Day, Biden went further than he has in other recent remarks on the subject of reproductive rights. In a short speech at the historic Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C., the president promised voters that codifying the abortion protections enshrined for 49 years in Roe v. Wade will be his first priority when the new Congress gets underway in January — so long as Democrats can hold the House and increase their Senate majority from 50 to 52.

“You gotta get out the vote; we can do this if we vote,” Biden said to an audience of younger Americans, describing the upcoming election as “the most consequential in our history.”

He added: “The choice and the stakes are crystal clear — especially when it comes to the right to choose.”

Democrats now control the evenly divided Senate because of Vice President Kamala Harris’ ability to break a tie vote. But they need 60 votes to avoid a filibuster, and two members of their caucus oppose a rule change that would allow them to codify Roe with a simple majority vote. With two more Democratic senators, Biden has argued, he’d be able to push ahead. Roughly half of U.S. states have imposed total or partial abortion bans that would be nullified by Biden’s proposed federal law.

Biden’s remarks, delivered at a Democratic National Committee event at the theater a few miles from the White House, marked something of a departure from his recent approach to the midterms, framing the election as a choice between parties as he crystallized their diametrically opposed positions on abortion.

“Republicans are doubling down on their extreme positions,” Biden said, standing in front of rows of women and beneath a large banner that read: “RESTORE ROE.”

Although he typically mentions abortion in his stump speeches, it has not been his main focus at recent events, which have focused instead on the benefits of the infrastructure, drug prices and manufacturing legislation Democrats have already passed.

The Supreme Court’s June ruling overturning Roe upended five decades of precedent and outraged supporters of abortion rights across the country. In August, Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejected an initiative that would have removed abortion protections in the state constitution, giving Democrats new optimism that the issue could galvanize voters in November and help them buck the historic trend of the incumbent president’s party losing seats in their first midterm election.

Biden said he wanted to “remind” voters of “the anger, the worry, the disbelief” they felt when the ruling came down this summer.

“In just four months, abortion bans have gone into effect in 14 states,” Biden said, detailing the fallout from the court enabling states to impose restrictions on abortion. The court could go on to take away other constitutional rights, including same-sex marriage, Biden suggested.

Last month, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said that his party would advance federal legislation banning abortion after 15 weeks of gestation if it gains control of Congress in the midterms.

In recent weeks, numerous polls have shown Republicans gaining ground as the abortion issue has been overtaken by ongoing concerns about inflation and high gas prices.

Democrats believe they stand to benefit from refocusing voters on abortion. Majorities of Democrats (82%) and independents (59%) identify as “pro-choice,” according to a recent poll by Navigator, a progressive polling firm. Similarly, 76% of Democrats and 54%, of independents disagree with the court’s ruling overturning Roe, the survey found.

Three organizations that support abortion rights — Planned Parenthood Action Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and EMILY’s List — announced Tuesday that they plan to collectively spend $150 million to target voters in key battleground races around the issue of abortion.

“It’s time to send an unmistakable message to politicians who have run roughshod on our freedoms: When you come for our rights, we’ll come for your seats,” said Mini Timmaraju, NARAL’s president.

The Democrats’ new push on abortion rights comes as early voting is already underway in many states.

©2022 Los Angeles Times.

Visit latimes.com.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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