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Biden rebukes Trump over ‘cruelty’ of Florida’s six-week abortion ban

TAMPA, Fla. — President Biden traveled to Florida on Tuesday to denounce that state’s six-week abortion ban — just days before the law goes into effect — blaming former president Donald Trump for the erosion of reproductive rights across the country.

“There’s one person who is responsible for this nightmare — and he’s acknowledged and he’s bragged about it,” Biden told a crowd of several hundred at Hillsborough Community College. “It’s Donald Trump.”

Repeatedly bashing Trump by name, Biden took his message on “reproductive freedom” to a state where Democrats have lost ground in recent years but where they believe the abortion issue will galvanize voters. In his first major speech on abortion since Trump said the politically volatile question should be left to the states, Biden suggested he would return to the issue in the months ahead.

Biden and other Democrats have sought to remind voters that Trump appointed three Supreme Court justices who helped overturn Roe v. Wade, paving the way for strict abortion bans in many states. Biden’s speech Tuesday was part of a broader Democratic effort to turn the 2022 Supreme Court decision into a rallying cry for the 2024 election.

“Donald Trump is worried voters are going to hold him accountable for the cruelty and chaos he created,” Biden said. “Folks, the bad news for Trump is we are going to hold him accountable.”

Democrats — who have seen the abortion issue mobilize voters in ways that have delivered victories in deeply Republican states such as Kentucky, Kansas and Ohio — are pushing to elevate the issue in other conservative-leaning states in hopes of putting Trump and his fellow Republicans on defense.

This month, the Florida Supreme Court approved a state law that would restrict most abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy. Biden called the law “bizarre” but suggested that women would turn out in droves in November to “restore those rights for the women of America.”

“This isn’t about states’ rights. It’s about women’s rights,” he said.

Trump — who previously suggested the law, signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), was “harsh” — made his own abortion policy shift April 8, saying the issue should be left to the states. But the Arizona Supreme Court ruled the next day that an 1864 law outlawing nearly all abortions should take effect, prompting immediate criticism from Trump and some other Republicans.

The Arizona and Florida rulings — and Trump’s latest posturing on the issue — have triggered a stepped-up effort by Democrats to blame the former president for the state of reproductive health care across the country.

“In Arizona, did you see what happened when you left it to the states?” Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) said at Biden’s event, referring to the reversion to the 1864 law. “It’s cruel and it’s wrong. And in Florida, Governor DeSantis and the extremists in the Florida legislature are taking us backward as well.”

Florida voters will have an opportunity to weigh in on the state’s law. The state Supreme Court allowed a measure that would enshrine abortion rights in the state’s constitution to appear on the ballot in November. Like other such constitutional measures in Florida, the referendum would need to achieve 60 percent of the vote to pass. Trump, a Florida resident, has not said how he would vote on the measure.

Democrats are hoping the ballot issue will increase turnout and make Florida — a state Trump won by 3.3 percentage points in 2020 — more competitive, at least for down-ballot races, if not for the presidency, said Susan MacManus, a political analyst based in the Tampa area.

“It can’t just be about Biden running for president. It has got to also be about Democrats running for congressional and state legislative positions,” she said, adding that while Biden receives low marks from young voters in the state, the abortion ballot measure could help him win additional votes from that key voting bloc.

Trump and his Republican allies have sought to cast Biden and his allies as the real extremists on the issue, accusing Democrats of supporting late-stage abortions.

But Biden, a practicing Catholic, has at times struggled to balance his personal beliefs and politics in public remarks about abortion. During a fundraiser last year, he said, “I’m not big on abortion.”

Ata meeting of his top officials at the White House in January, Biden made sure to stipulate that he was not pushing for “abortion on demand,” but rather federal policy that would codify the protections that the Supreme Court justices outlined in their 1973 Roe decision.

In his State of the Union address last month, Biden did not utter the word “abortion,” instead skipping over the term in his prepared remarks and opting for alternative language such as “reproductive freedom” and the right to “choose.”

Florida, which has trended decidedly toward Republicans in recent years after decades of being the nation’s largest swing state, has been a destination for people seeking abortions in part because it is surrounded by several states with strict bans on the procedure. In the months since Roe was overturned, many women in the South have traveled to Florida to receive abortions, fleeing restrictions in states like Alabama and South Carolina.

More than 80,000 women get an abortion in Florida in a typical year, accounting for about 1 in 12 abortions in the country. When Florida’s new restriction goes into place May 1, the closest option for someone seeking an abortion may be North Carolina.

In Tampa, Biden even attacked Trump for selling a $60 Bible.

“How many times does he have to prove he can’t be trusted?” Biden asked, adding that the former president described the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe “as a miracle.”

“Maybe it’s coming from that Bible he’s trying to sell,” Biden said. “I almost wanted to buy one just to see what the hell is in it.”

Caroline Kitchener and Maegan Vazquez contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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