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President Biden and a group of governors met about protecting abortion rights

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Biden is looking for actions his administration can take to protect abortion rights now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade. He says Democrats need more seats in Congress to try to enshrine access to abortion into law. Today, he also warned that he thinks restrictions on abortions could increase if his party loses its narrow majority.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: If we don't take - keep the Senate, increase it and the House, we're going to be in a situation where the Republicans are going to pass a nationwide prohibition consistent with what the Supreme Court ruled.

SHAPIRO: Today, he met with Democratic governors from nine states about what they are doing. NPR's Barbara Sprunt is covering this story from the White House. Hi, Barbara.

BARBARA SPRUNT, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Tell us more about the meeting. What did the president want to talk about?

SPRUNT: Well, yesterday, President Biden said he would have announcements today about steps he'll take to protect abortion rights. But really, this was essentially a virtual listening session with governors. He didn't have any new steps to announce today.

Reporters were in the room for the start of it. And what we heard was governors explaining what the situation is like in their states. And we heard the president asking them for more ideas.

SHAPIRO: We're going to hear from one of those governors in another part of the program. What sorts of ideas did they offer him?

SPRUNT: Well, one thing that they urged was to make use of federal and tribal land in states where abortion has been banned, facilities like military hospitals. And that's interesting that they're still asking for that because we had heard earlier this week from the White House that the idea of using federal lands has been ruled out. The governors acknowledged the realities of the situation. They're supportive of abortion rights. And so it's going to be up to them to provide those services for people. And one of those governors was New York's Kathy Hochul. And she talked about the financial burden faced by states who will continue to provide abortion, like hers.

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KATHY HOCHUL: The rights of millions of women across this country are now falling on the shoulders of just a handful of states. Just a handful of states are now going to have to take care of the health care of women from other states.

SPRUNT: And Biden also talked with North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper. He said his state has already seen an influx of patients coming in for abortion services. He said one provider has scheduled almost 200 patients from out of state just next week. And if you map that out, that's about 10,000 extra patients coming next year from states that have tight restrictions in place. But Biden didn't really indicate what kind of extra help is coming for these states.

SHAPIRO: The president has been having a lot of these kinds of meetings, some even before the Supreme Court ruled in this case. What are advocates from around the country telling the Biden administration?

SPRUNT: Yeah, there have been dozens of these kinds of meetings at various levels. I spoke with Lupe Rodriguez. She's with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice. She's in California. She's met with the White House in the last few months for these kinds of conversations. And she told me that she's looking to see action on travel vouchers for women who don't have the money to fly or take a train to another state to get abortion care. And she said that's one concrete action that can be taken, but there's a lot more resources that are going to be needed even in states that do have protections in place for abortion.

LUPE RODRIGUEZ: Part of the conversation needs to be what resources are being given to states that will have abortion access so that they can support the influx of people and support the people in their own state who need care.

SPRUNT: So places like California and New York that have protections in place, the people in those states presumably will continue to seek abortion care at the rates they were before this decision came down. And so now these clinics and providers have to take into account that there's just going to be a lot more people coming from out of state.

SHAPIRO: After the Supreme Court ruled, you spoke with abortion rights supporters who had gone to the court, who were frustrated with Democrats and the president for not doing more. How is the White House responding to that criticism?

SPRUNT: That's right. I've spoken to voters and advocates who say that they feel, I mean, frankly, abandoned by the White House; people who've told me that they've seen the statements, they've seen the speeches and the interviews, but they want to see President Biden and Vice President Harris out there meeting with women and providers at abortion clinics. Biden has been overseas since the decision was handed down. And the White House is pointing out that this meeting was the first thing he did when he got back. He says he wants to make this a case, that this is an election issue. So to do that, we'll probably see more of these kinds of conversations in the weeks to come.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Barbara Sprunt reporting from the White House. Thank you.

SPRUNT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.