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Trump ripped away abortion rights nationwide, Biden argues as he urges women to back him

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(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden on Tuesday called out rival Donald Trump by name, blaming the former president in a high-profile speech in Florida for the spread of abortion bans since the end of Roe v. Wade as he encouraged women voters to back him in November — and rebuke those he called opponents of reproductive freedom.

“Let’s be real clear: There’s one person responsible for this nightmare, and he’s acknowledged and he brags about it: Donald Trump,” Biden said in a speech from Hillsborough Community College outside Tampa, speaking one week before the state’s six-week ban, with narrow exceptions, goes into effect.

It was Trump, Biden argued, who had “ripped away” women’s freedom around the country by naming three justices to the U.S. Supreme Court who ruled against Roe. But it was women who hold the political power to push back, Biden said.

“When you do that, it will teach Donald Trump and the extreme MAGA Republicans a valuable lesson: Don’t mess with the women of America,” he said.

Biden’s appearance, which spurred jeers for Trump and cheers for his defense of abortion access, was the latest high-profile effort by his campaign to spotlight the issue as the general election fight gears up.

Ahead of the event, aides had said Biden’s remarks would tie access to contraception, to in vitro fertilization and to abortion to the results of the looming 2024 election, painting a picture of what’s at stake this cycle.

In his speech, the president invoked women forced to travel far from home for needed abortions or who have been unable to get emergency care under their states’ restrictions.

He slammed Trump’s position celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court decision overruling Roe in 2022 and returning the issue to the local level.

Since then, 21 states have enacted restrictions or bans on abortion.

Sarcastically quoting a previous Trump comment — “the states are working very brilliantly, in some cases conservative, in some cases not conservative, but they’re working” — Biden said on Tuesday, “It’s a six-week ban in Florida, it’s really brilliant, isn’t it? Even before women know they’re pregnant, is that brilliant?”

Biden also tied Trump to a recent Arizona Supreme Court ruling reviving a strict, Civil War-era ban on nearly all abortions in the state, which could go into effect as soon as June.

Trump has said that ban goes too far and should be undone but Biden insisted in his remarks that “Trump is literally taking us back 160 years.”

Abortion is not a state issue, Biden said. He was backed by a “Restore Roe” sign as he repeated a frequent promise that if enough Democratic lawmakers are elected and he stays in the White House, he will push to codify Roe’s protections through Congress.

“He’s [Trump is] wrong, the Supreme Court is was wrong. It should be a constitutional right in the federal Constitution, a federal right, and it shouldn’t matter where in America you live,” Biden said. “This isn’t about states’ rights, this is about women’s rights.”

The Biden campaign has increasingly attacked Trump over the issue of abortion, including his new stance that it should remain with local officials and voters.

Trump has stressed his support for three key exceptions of rape, incest and the pregnant woman’s life and also says that he will not sign a national abortion ban if elected, reversing an earlier promise.

“We gave it back to the states …. And it’s working the way it’s supposed to,” he said earlier this month.

Biden assailed that position in his Tuesday speech, contending that Trump is “worried that voters will hold him accountable” for the “cruelty and chaos” of state-level restrictions.

“The bad news for Trump is we are going to hold him accountable,” Biden said.

He also said voters should not believe Trump’s rhetoric on abortion now, given his history: “How many times does he have to prove [he] can’t be trusted?”

“He describes the Dobbs decision [overruling Roe] as a miracle,” Biden went on to say.

“Maybe it’s coming from that Bible he’s trying to sell,” Biden added, referring to a recent piece of Trump merchandise. “Whoa, I almost wanted to buy one just to see what the hell’s in it.”

Voters speak

June Johns, a registered Democrat in St. Petersburg, Florida, told ABC News she’s concerned about women’s reproductive rights in the country.

“I don’t see how you can be pro-life and not be concerned about what’s happening to women,” Johns said. “Also, I’m here because I think Joe Biden is one of our best chances to preserve our democracy.”

Another Democrat, Mary Hanrahan from Gulfport, Florida, applauded Biden for coming to the state ahead of the six-week abortion ban going into effect next week. Hanrahan singled out a ballot measure to expand abortion access that abortion advocates in Florida successfully added to the November ballot.

“I think we need everybody in Florida to vote yes on Amendment Four and get rid of the six-week abortion ban,” Hanrahan said. “I think it’s a bad idea. I think that people need to be in charge of their own bodies.”

Abortion ‘will decide this election,’ Dems say

Democrats have seized on the issue of abortion access, seeing success in both battleground and red states when it’s on the ballot since 2022 — which Biden’s campaign noted this week in previewing his trip on Tuesday.

“Abortion bans are now a voting issue in battleground states across the country. That will decide this election,” said Jen Cox, a Biden campaign adviser in Arizona.

Biden campaign spokesman Michael Tyler joined Cox on a call with reporters ahead of Biden’s trip to Florida and said that “whenever abortion rights have been on the ballot, they’ve won.”

“In November, Florida will have a referendum on the ballot and Arizona and Nevada are likely to as well,” Tyler said then. “The last time there was an abortion referendum on the ballot in 2012, President [Barack] Obama won the state. So, with our enormous financial advantage, the Biden-Harris campaign can afford to invest in many paths to victory and that includes Florida.”

As proposed abortion initiatives to expand or protect access are set to appear on several state ballots this November, including in Arizona, Florida and Nevada, the Biden campaign has emphasized what they see as the threat Republicans pose to allowing abortions. Democrats believe the issue is galvanizing to their base and crucial swing voters.

Tuesday’s remarks from Biden in Florida were also notable, however, given his complicated relationship with the issue of abortion because of his personal faith as a devout Catholic.

“I’m not big on abortion,” he acknowledged last year. “But guess what? Roe v. Wade got it right. Roe v. Wade [generally allowing abortions through the second trimester] cut in a place where the vast majority of religions have reached agreement.”

Other Democrats have urged Biden to be more full-throated.

During an interview in January on CBS’ “Face The Nation,” when asked if Biden needs to talk about abortion more, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said, “I think it would be good if he did.”

Instead, the president has leaned heavily on Vice President Kamala Harris to be the campaign’s primary messenger.

She launched a “Reproductive Freedom Tour” in January and quickly traveled to Arizona this month after the state’s Supreme Court ruling upholding the 160-year-old, near-total abortion ban.

Biden’s trip to Florida on Tuesday also underscores Democrats’ tentative optimism that they could retake the state this November after being defeated in 2020 and 2016 — at the same time that Republicans have seen a slew of notable wins there, including the rise of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Republicans who spoke with ABC News have played down Democratic zeal, pointing to the many local races the GOP has been winning and Democrats’ past messaging on abortion in elections they lost.

Referring to the six-week ban, Evan Power, the chair of the Florida GOP, said that “this is what the voters sent their legislators to Tallahassee to deliver on and they did deliver on it. So I don’t think there’s a backlash coming in at all.”

But the Biden campaign insists they see opportunity.

“I don’t think the president coming to the state tomorrow to talk about the fundamental stakes in this election for women in Florida and across the country is ‘window dressing.’ We take Florida very seriously,” Tyler told reporters earlier this week. “The idea that Donald Trump has the state in the bag could not be further from the truth.”

ABC News’ Gabriella Abdul-Hakim, Mary Bruce, Libby Cathey, Fritz Farrow, Molly Nagle and Oren Oppenheim contributed to this report.

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