President Biden’s remarks during a meeting on reproductive rights with state and local officials

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Roosevelt Hall

(August 26, 2022)

11:12 a.m. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Well, listen, thank you for coming. And I know you’ve met my personal – (clears throat) – excuse me – and – and I’m just a – quote, a “passing through”. But I want to thank you for what you are doing and your focus.

I – you know, the – the leadership of state and local authorities on this issue is incredibly important – incredibly important.

And as I said – excuse me for – I have a throat – frog in my throat here – (drinks water) – as I said the Court got the better of Roe for almost 50 years. And Congress, in my opinion, should co- – codify cro- – Roe for – once and for all. But right now, we’re missing a handful of voices. And it passed in the House, but in the Senate we are short. And the only way that will happen is if the American people make it happen in November.

Do you remember that line in – in the court case – in the Dobbs case saying that women can talk? Well, they have no idea who – you’re going to hear women roaring about this, and it will have consequences. So I’m optimistic that we’ll get to a place where we’re already making your voices heard, like you saw what happened with Pat Ryan in New York taking over that neighborhood.

I think you’re – I think the American people realize that’s just beyond pale. It’s–it’s–it’s going too far.

In the meantime, I have signed two executive orders to protect access to reproductive health care, including emergency medical care, and to protect a woman’s right to travel to get the care she needs. And I think one thing that will prove as consequential as anything we’ve done is to protect his right to privacy so that they can’t access that information.

And we also just had a big victory in a district court in Idaho. And so I’m here today to hear what you think, what you do. And — and so I’m going to, as they say, yield the floor.

And I want to–I’ve come to do a little listening, if I could, if that’s all right.

MRS. RODRIGUEZ: Yes. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We may have wanted to hear first from the mayor of Durham, North Carolina—Mayor O’Neal—who joined us today.

THE PRESIDENT Madam Mayor.

MAYOR O’NEAL: Mr. Speaker, I am so happy to be here today and on this special day. It’s Women’s Equality Day. And in North Carolina, we’re still a relatively safe state for women’s right to choose. But where it’s a threat anywhere, it’s a threat to everyone.

And so today, in North Carolina, we stand ready to help change the narrative. I believe it’s time for us to talk about the encroachment – or non-encroachment – of men’s reproductive rights.

Conversation in this area has primarily focused on women’s reproductive rights. But there are two partners when it comes to pregnancy, and we should look and see what the other side can bring into this conversation when it comes to reproductive freedoms.

We are all at a crucial stage of our nation in a number of areas, but the – the right to choose is a fundamental right in many areas. And when it’s threatened, we all have to do our part to make sure it’s balanced.

I am a former judge. I was a sitting judge for 24 years in state court. And so balance and fairness are very important to me, my state and my city. And so, I’m here today to try to tell us that we need to talk about the reproductive freedoms that men have that women don’t currently enjoy.

MRS. RODRIGUEZ: Thank you very much.

THE PRESIDENT Tell me how you do that. Now I get it – I mean, you’re definitely right. But how, in asserting the freedom that men have, what are you doing to–but embarrassing men to–get into the–into the argument and vote the right way on this issue?

MAYOR O’NEAL: Well, I think you can mainly enumerate – I think one of my colleagues here this morning mentioned

Via- — Viagra. If you start talking about taking away the right of men to take it, then what do we have? Or if we think about the fact that there are medical procedures that men can have too – because an abortion is a medical procedure – there are medical procedures that men can have that will help them not contribute to the making of a child.

So there needs to be discussions about why it’s not part of the conversation. Why does he only focus on a woman? And I think just having a conversation makes people rethink and reshape that narrative. And we don’t talk about it because these are very personal and intimate matters.

But I believe it is essential that we focus on what men can do to physically contribute to whether or not they have a child.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay.

MRS. RODRIGUEZ: Thank you, Mayor. And then we wanted to hear from Judge Hidalgo of Harris County, Texas. Judge?

JUDGE HIDALGO: Mr. President, as you know, I am responsible for the county of Houston. And it was tragic – just yesterday the trigger law in Texas went into effect. And this means that abortion is prohibited from the moment of fertilization and that anyone who performs an abortion could be charged with a crime, and the penalty could be up to life in prison. And so, as we celebrate Women’s Equality Day, we have anything but equality when it comes to this issue.

I hear a lot of concerns from our doctors in the community. Our public hospital system provides abortions when medically necessary. And these doctors tell us that they will no longer be able to determine when it is legal to perform an abortion, because Texas law provides no exemption for rape or incest; allows an exception to abortion only when the mother’s life is in danger or she risks irreparable harm.

So how do you determine that if you’re a doctor? And they are anxious about it. They wonder if they are protecting a life or exposing themselves to serious legal risks.

So we’ve been working to put some money into some of the–some of the US bailout funds for maternal mortality in Harris County. We already have the highest maternal mortality in Texas. Certainly, compared to the rest of the country, it is very, very high, and that will only exacerbate the problem.

Abortions aren’t going anywhere. They’ll just become a bigger threat.

And look, I’ve dealt with fires, floods, a pandemic, the winter freeze we had in Texas. You came, Mr. President, just after this tragedy.

THE PRESIDENT That’s where I saw you for the last time.

JUDGE HIDALGO:[interprétation]It was wonderful having you, Mr. President. And look, a lot of that – maybe winter frost is an exception – it’s natural disasters. It’s a man-made disaster we have in Texas. It is a man-made disaster.

And we have to change it, as you say, at the ballot box. But, look, we have that, we have a bounty law, and we have a legislative session that’s going to start in January where they’re looking at tackling contraception – access to contraception.

We’re already talking about banning that — banning the pill that helps women get abortions who can’t physically go to a clinic; this would make it even more difficult for women to travel.

A woman in Houston would have to travel 600 miles to get to the nearest abortion clinic in New Mexico. And so, we need help figuring out how to get women to have abortions, to go to those states that give us safe havens.

We need funding for additional support for contraception, reproductive health care. We are using our local funding to further support these women, to fight maternal mortality with some of the funds you sent. But it’s a tough day for women in Texas.

And I will say that I speak of this as the only female head of the largest county in the state of Texas, the third largest – the third largest in the country. And I’m not out of step with the women of Texas, because the vast majority of Texans are opposed to this extreme law — which I refuse to call partisan, because it’s extreme. And we can all join together to determine that.

And so I speak for myself, I speak for the women of Harris County, and I speak for the majority of Texans when I say this law has no place, and it’s a slap in the face to do it on the eve of Women’s Equality Day.

THE PRESIDENT: I ​​think you speak for women across America. I think you are talking beyond women. I believe you speak for the majority of the American people.

It’s – the idea that there are no exceptions made equally is just not something that – you see what the – what the votes – who knows what happens in November, but you see what some of the votes that have taken place, that have taken place over the last — the last two months here in the United States in various localities. The American people – I think it’s beyond anyone’s thought – we would go.

MAYOR PATTERSON-HOWARD: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for —

MRS. RODRIGUEZ: Oh…

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I’m sorry.

MAYOR PATTERSON-HOWARD: She’s…

THE PRESIDENT: I… I took control. I shouldn’t do this.

MRS. RODRIGUEZ: No problem, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT I don’t have the right to do that. To chase. You tell me.

MRS. RODRIGUEZ: I think we’ll move on and have the rest of the conversation closed. So thank you very much everyone.

Q Are you concerned that national security may have been compromised at Mar-a-Lago?

THE PRESIDENT: Let…we’ll let the Department of Justice determine that. We’ll see what happens.

END 11:24 a.m. EDT

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