In his State of the Union speech to Congress and the nation Tuesday night—during which Republicans found little to cheer for (and, in some cases, cause to disrupt)—President Biden specifically addressed some of the major issues of concern to feminists. From calling for advancing paid family and medical leave and expanding the Child Tax Credit, to LGBTQ+ rights and abortion—the latter of which is expected to be a major motivating issue for women voters in the 2024 election—he spoke on a number of feminist topics.
On abortion, the President called on Congress to codify Roe v. Wade—a tall order, given the currently divided state of Congress and Republicans’ control of the House. Reflecting his administration’s recent actions to make abortion pills more accessible, Biden continued, “The Vice President and I are doing everything to protect access to reproductive health care and safeguard patient safety. But already, more than a dozen states are enforcing extreme abortion bans. Make no mistake about it: If Congress passes a national ban, I will veto it.”
Biden also mentioned LGBTQ+ rights, alluding to the ongoing fight to secure trans rights in statehouses. “Let’s also pass the bipartisan Equality Act to ensure LGBTQ Americans, especially transgender young people, can live with safety and dignity,” he said.
Throughout his speech, the President devoted time to caregiving, education, and labor rights. “Let’s make sure working parents can afford to raise a family with sick days, paid family medical leave, affordable child care,” he said. “That’s going to enable millions more people to go and stay at work.”
He also called for the restoration of the expanded Child Tax Credit, noting that it “gave tens of millions of parents some breathing room and cut child poverty in half, to the lowest level in history.”
Notably, Biden also addressed an issue of great importance to older women who all too often are among the poorest in the country—and, going off script in real time in response to Republican jeers, negotiated an agreement that Congress would not make any cuts to Social Security or Medicare: “Social Security and Medicare are a lifeline for millions of seniors. Americans have to pay into them from the very first paycheck they started,” he stated.
“So tonight, let’s all agree—and we apparently are—let’s stand up for seniors. Stand up and show them we will not cut Social Security,” he said. “We will not cut Medicare.” And just to put a pin in it, he declared he would veto any potential cuts to Medicare that may make it to his desk.
Biden’s address marked his first under a divided Congress—as well as the first since last June’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. The President was joined by a number of notable guests—from the parents of Tyre Nichols, who’s killing by Memphis police officers last month has ignited renewed protests across the nation and calls for federal reforms; to Brandon Tsay, who courageously disarmed the shooter in last month’s mass shooting in Monterey Park, California, again igniting calls for banning assault weapons.
Also in attendance was Paul Pelosi—husband of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the victim of a vicious attack last year, in which an assailant searching for the former Speaker broke into the couple’s San Francisco home. “There’s no place for political violence in America,” the President said, also mentioning the Jan. 6 insurrection. “We have to protect the right to vote, not suppress that fundamental right. Honor the results of our elections, not subvert the will of the people. We have to uphold the rule of the law and restore trust in our institutions of democracy.”
Biden also saluted the former Speaker herself, who he said will be “considered the greatest speaker in the history of the House of Representatives.” (We certainly agree!)