White House slams Texas Gov. Abbott's defense of abortion law with no exceptions for rape

WASHINGTON — The White House discounted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s pledge that his state would “work tirelessly to make sure we eliminate all rapists from the streets” after he signed a statewide ban on all abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy while offering no exceptions for victims of rape or incest.

“If Gov. Abbott has a means of eliminating all rapists, or all rape, from the United States, then there’ll be bipartisan support for that,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki commented at a press briefing Wednesday.

“But given that there’s never in the history of the country, or the world, been any leader who has ever been able to eliminate rape, eliminate rapists from our streets … it’s one of the many reasons why women in Texas should have access to health care,” she continued.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, holds a press briefing at the White House on Wednesday.
Press secretary Jen Psaki at a White House briefing on Wednesday. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Texas’s latest ban stands as the country’s most restrictive abortion access law since the passage of Roe v. Wade in the 1970s. Unlike other Republican-led abortion laws around the country, Texas’s new rule grants a $10,000 minimum reward to private citizens who successfully bring lawsuits against anyone involved in aiding an abortion.

The Texas law prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity — usually around six weeks into a pregnancy. Because many women do not even realize they’re pregnant that early, the law is nearly a complete abortion ban.

The U.S. Supreme Court, citing the law’s unique enforcement mechanism, chose not to intervene in blocking the measure as it makes its way through the legal system.

Psaki reiterated on Wednesday that the White House believes the new law is unconstitutional. When pressed to speak directly to women who are concerned about the law, Psaki said, “We are going to do everything we can to provide assistance as quickly as we can.” She was not able to give a firm timeline of when that help may arrive.

President Biden has limited influence over a state law, but he has requested that both the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services investigate how they might protect Texas women’s “access to safe and legal abortions.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott shows off his signature after signing Senate Bill 1, also known as the election integrity bill, into law in Tyler, Texas, on Tuesday. He is flanked by State Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, front center left, and Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick, front right.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in Tyler, Texas, on Tuesday, after he signed Senate Bill 1, also known as the election integrity bill, into law. (LM Otero/AP Photo)

“One of the reasons why the Department of Health and Human Services is a key component here is because they oversee the nation’s health care systems. But they are going to look for ways to make sure we are providing access to health care to women in Texas,” said Psaki.

Psaki also declined to comment on whether the White House believed the Food and Drug Administration should lift its significant restrictions surrounding abortion pills like mifepristone. Earlier this week, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, issued an executive order banning such medications from being sent through the mail or virtual pharmacies.

“We understand that women are looking at their choice right now … and we are hopeful that we will have more to convey directly,” said Psaki.


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