Opinion| Biden’s internal failures dominate NATO summit

Marwa El- Shinawy
8 Min Read
Dr Marwa El-Shinawy

At a press conference held after the NATO Summit last Thursday, President Joe Biden announced that the US will continue to help Ukraine until it is victorious.

He also asserted decisively that Russia is the reason for the rise in the prices of fuel and food globally, expressing his welcome to Sweden and Finland, boto of which recently joined NATO — an open challenge to Russia’s will.

The US president added that NATO’s strategy responded to global changes and threats from Russia and China, adding: “I told Russian President Vladimir Putin that his invasion of Ukraine would make NATO more united, and this is what happened.”  

In his answers to questions about Russia and Ukraine, Biden appeared firm and confident despite his frequent slips of the tongue. However, this calm confidence soon disappeared when questions began to revolve around the internal situation in the US, especially the conclusion of the abolition of the right to abortion that was issued by the Supreme Court recently.

The president answered questions regarding inflation and the right to abortion with diplomatic answers that do not suggest that he has a clear plan as he claims.

Certainly, with his heroic answers on Russia, Biden was trying to regain his lost popularity by drawing the public’s attention to the external enemy rather than to his internal failures, repeating the same usual electoral tricks that have become clear to all.  

There is no doubt that the recent decision of the Supreme Court regarding the right to abortion is a setback for the rights and freedoms of women and democracy in general in the US. This is especially so since the debate over the right to abortion is a hot spot in American national and state politics, as it is closely linked to judicial appointments, coordination between the powers that are appointed and the elected authorities in general in the US, and the eternal struggle between Democrats and Republicans.

In fact, the controversy over the right to abortion is one of the issues that greatly affect the electorate. In other words, while the abortion debate is ostensibly related to a single issue, it has far-reaching religious, legal, and political implications, and is central to women’s rights movements. As a result, the abortion issue has a comprehensive impact on the way people vote and determine their political identity.

This controversy all started during the late 1960s and early 1970s, when 30 US states had comprehensive abortion bans, 16 allowed conditional abortion, and four states allowed legal abortion.

At the time, the UK, Canada, and the US enacted reforms that made abortion more accessible. In the first two countries, national parliaments defined abortion narrowly as a “health right” and only allowed the procedure when doctors concluded it was medically necessary. In the US, only a few state legislatures passed modest reforms. 

Then, in 1973, a Texas woman sued the state, arguing that its anti-abortion laws were a violation of the 14th amendment — the right to privacy — thus the hallmark case of Roe v. Wade came to be.

Nine Supreme Court justices, appointed for life, issued a sweeping ruling that surprised even lawyers demanding expanded abortion rights. Bypassing public opinion, US judges defined abortion as a privacy right and opened the door wide to abortion at the request of a pregnant woman.

Anti-abortionists reacted forcefully, complaining that “the unelected elite” usurped the power of democratically elected legislatures. And this is where the dispute came from.

To this day, 1973 remains a notable year in both the abortion debate and the broader struggle for women’s rights. No doubt, the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade is among the most significant court precedents in modern history.  

Therefore, the recent decision of the Supreme Court — which abolished the right to abortion completely — is in complete contradiction to the 1973 ruling and turned the scales upside down. The abortion debate sparked by the Supreme Court’s conclusion is forcing Americans to think about what abortion policy should be and what US policy is. It would not be an exaggeration to describe this policy as extreme, whether it is a complete ban or an unconditional permit. 

As a matter of public policy, the Republican Party seeks laws that restrict or limit access to abortion while the Democratic Party seeks to remove restrictions and improve funding for access to safe and legal abortions. The debate has been largely framed by two competing viewpoints — the pro-choice view, which considers abortion a constitutionally protected right of women, and the pro-life view, that abortion is immoral, and that government should have the right to restrict and/or punish abortion.

In contrast to what is happening in the US, there are moderate policies in most European countries. In 39 European countries out of 42, elective abortions are allowed, with the baseline being 15 weeks of gestation or earlier. In 32 of 39, the limit is 12 weeks or earlier.

The controversy over the right to abortion also drew attention to some shameful facts about the US. The country ranks near the bottom of the list among developed countries in terms of the amount of its investment in childcare and is one of only seven countries that do not have a national paid leave policy.

Health care costs are so high in the US, including childbirth and pregnancy, that more than a third of American women report skipping needed medical care — the highest rate among 11 high-income countries, according to a study by the Commonwealth Fund.

Despite the achievements that Biden referred to in the press conference regarding confronting Russia and making NATO more united and cohesive, the reality of the internal situation in the US confirms the existence of sharp divisions and major failures by the American administration.

Biden will certainly not be able to turn the Russian-Ukrainian War into a lifeline for him to win the upcoming elections.

* Marwa Al-Shinawy is an Assistant Professor at the International American University for Specialised Studies (IAUS)

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