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White House: Serious risk of nationwide abortion ban after McConnell floats the idea

Abortion rights protesters hold a demonstration outside of the  Supreme Court on Saturday in Washington.
Abortion rights protesters hold a demonstration outside of the Supreme Court on Saturday in Washington.

Updated May 9, 2022 at 7:14 PM ET

The White House is saying the country is at "serious risk" of a nationwide ban on abortion two days after Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said it was possible for lawmakers to pursue codifying the Supreme Court's leaked draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade.

In an interview with USA Today published over the weekend, McConnell said if the draft represented the final ruling, "legislative bodies ... certainly could legislate in that area." As of now, the leaked opinion from the court would allow states to implement their own abortion bans, but it would not ban abortion on the national level.

"If this were the final decision, that was the point that it should be resolved one way or another in the legislative process. So yeah, it's possible," he said.

The Senate would need 60 votes to codify that kind of legislation, which with the filibuster is currently not likely. But McConnell's statement certainly puts morepressure on Democrats to hold their control of the Senate in this year's midterm elections.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee responded to McConnell's comments over the weekend:

"Mitch McConnell confirmed what voters have long known: Republicans will use every tool they can, from the courts to Congress, to make abortion illegal everywhere and strip away a woman's right to make our own decisions. For voters, the stakes of protecting and expanding our Democratic Senate Majority in 2022 have never been higher."

At Monday's White House daily briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki responded to McConnell's comments by mentioning Republican lawmakers' efforts in Mississippi and Louisiana to criminalize abortions and target birth control.

"I think we're at serious risk," Psaki said when asked how at risk the country was to completely outlawing abortion.

The Senate on Wednesday will vote on a bill to create a federal right to have an abortion, but the effort appears symbolic and unlikely to overcome a Republican filibuster.

Protests outside justices' homes

Protests against the Supreme Court's leaked draft opinion on overturning abortion rights garnered a response from both the White House and Republican leaders on Monday, as well.

Over the weekend, protesters peacefully rallied outside the homes of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts, and there were also protests in other major cities across the country.

In Madison, Wis., authorities said they are investigating possible arson at an anti-abortion group's office.

".@POTUS strongly believes in the Constitutional right to protest. But that should never include violence, threats, or vandalism," Psaki tweeted Monday morning. "Judges perform an incredibly important function in our society, and they must be able to do their jobs without concern for their personal safety."

Republicans weaponized the protests. McConnell called them "an attempt to replace the rule of law with the rule of mobs."

Psaki responded to McConnell's comments during the White House press briefing.

"We are a country that promotes democracy and we certainly allow for peaceful protest in a range of places in the county. None of it should violate the law. No one is suggesting that, and it should never resort to violence, to threats, to intimidation in any way, shape, or form," Psaki said.

Just before adjourning on Monday, the Senate passed by unanimous consent legislation that would "allow the Supreme Court of the United States Police to provide the families of Supreme Court Justices with around-the-clock security protection." The bill was introduced by Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware and Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.

This Saturday, another wave of pro-abortion rights protests are expected for a "Bans Off Our Bodies" day of action, organized by Planned Parenthood organizations, Women's March and other groups.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Deepa Shivaram
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.