LYNCHBURG, Va. – On Friday, President Biden signed an executive order on abortion rights after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade two weeks ago.
“This was not a decision driven by the Constitution,” Biden said.
Still, the President’s reach on the issue is limited, according to local political experts.
University of Lynchburg’s Dr. Richards called it a political act to appease democrats and the public amid mass demonstrations and protests.
“It won’t change anything within an individual state really. It’s an executive order, which means the next president, whether a republican or democrat, could undo or strengthen that order,” Richards said. “It’s not law. It’s not a permanent change to the law. At the end of the day, it’s a statement by the President that he wants to do something, but it’s not going to change things dramatically.”
The federal government can’t undo the Supreme Court’s decision, which means states will still have the power over abortion rights.
“What I think he’s trying to do with this order is to strengthen what the federal government can do, which is to ensure that things like the drugs that can be taken, that are FDA approved, are still available,” Richards said.
It could also rein in penalties for women traveling across state lines for an abortion. However, Richards said that could lead to legal pushback in the courts from states that have moved to ban it.
“To go around the Supreme Court decision, there’s a couple of different ways,” Richards said. “Obviously the most difficult and very least likely at this point would be some kind of Constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right. Short of that, the federal government could pass a law that tried to protect women’s rights.”
Congress introduced the Women’s Health Protection Act to legalize abortion nationwide, but it was blocked by filibustering in the senate.
The President originally said he’d support making an exception to get rid of the filibuster, but this is unlikely since he doesn’t have support from his own party.