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Biden tells Congress to codify Roe, pass LGBTQ protections

February 8, 2023 Catholic News Agency 1
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union address during a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington, D.C. The speech marks Biden’s first address to the new Republican-controlled House. / Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Washington D.C., Feb 8, 2023 / 06:08 am (CNA).

During his 2023 State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Joe Biden called on Congress to codify Roe v. Wade and pass legislation banning discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity. The proposals put him at odds with the U.S. Catholic bishops.

“Here in the people’s House, it’s our duty to protect all the people’s rights and freedoms,” Biden said. “Congress must restore the right that was taken away [when the Supreme Court overturned] Roe v. Wade.” 

Codifying Roe v. Wade would establish federal abortion laws that mirror the standards that were set under the now obsolete Roe v. Wade decision. Such a law would prohibit states from banning abortion and would prevent certain state-level abortion restrictions.

Since the Supreme Court overturned the ruling, 13 states have banned most abortions and another five have imposed more restrictions on abortion. In six other states, proposed bans and restrictions have been held up in the court system. 

“The vice president and I are doing everything to protect access to reproductive health care and safeguard patient [privacy],” the president said. “But already, more than a dozen states are enforcing extreme abortion bans. Make no mistake about it; if Congress passes a national abortion ban, I will veto it.”

Although Biden is the nation’s second Catholic president, he remains at odds with American Catholic bishops and Catholic Church teaching. In July, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities referred to an attempt to codify Roe v. Wade as “the most unjust and extreme abortion on demand bill our nation has ever seen.” 

Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, tweeted his thoughts on the issue before the president’s speech. 

“The ‘state of the union’ is fatally flawed if we are committed to supporting, promoting, and paying for abortion,” Tobin said. “A nation that destroys its own children has no future.”

The National Right to Life Committee criticized Biden after the State of the Union address. NRLC accused Biden of being “the most pro-abortion president in history.” 

“The Biden administration and the Democratic Party have yet to hear of an abortion they wouldn’t support,” NRLC President Carol Tobias said in a statement. “Tragically, women and their unborn babies will be the ones to suffer.”

In addition to the president’s support for abortion, he reiterated his support for laws that would establish federal civil rights protections for people identifying as LGBTQ. The legislation, known as the Equality Act, would ban discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity. 

“Let’s also pass the bipartisan Equality Act to ensure LGBTQ Americans, especially transgender young people, can live with safety and dignity,” Biden said. ‘Our strength is not just the example of our power but the power of our example. Let’s remember the world’s watching.”

This legislation has also received pushback from the USCCB. 

According to the Catholic bishops, it would threaten religious freedom by forcing religiously operated organizations and faith-based charities to “host functions that violate their beliefs” and “violate their religious beliefs.” 

The bishops raised their concerns that the legislation would require faith-based hospitals to provide abortions and gender transition surgery. The USCCB also said the act would force biological females to share locker rooms and compete in sports with biological males who identify as female.