In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, more and more Democrats are calling on President Joe Biden to issue a public health emergency declaration.
Eighty House Democrats encouraged Biden to act earlier this week; as of right now, 18 Senate Democrats had done the same.
Following the repeal of nearly 50 years of federal abortion protections, lawmakers, led by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), wrote to Biden and Health Secretary Xavier Becerra on Wednesday evening to request that the president declare a national and public health emergency.
The senators stated in the letter, which was revealed to HuffPost exclusively, that “this is an emergency.” In response to growing right-wing threats, the Biden-Harris administration has already taken significant steps to defend abortion rights. You can, however, take more action to alleviate this situation.
More than a dozen states have outlawed or severely restricted abortion since the Supreme Court overruled Roe last month, and many more are poised to do the same. Fear, uncertainty, legal ambiguities, and a patchwork of abortion options are all consequences of the decision that will disproportionately affect low-income people, women of colour, and residents of rural areas. Others with less means may be forced to carry unintended pregnancies to term, and many will have to travel outside the state for abortions.
The letter is just one of many recent attempts by Democrats and pro-choice activists to express their concerns that the Biden administration is not doing enough to make a political point or formulate any meaningful policy in the wake of Roe’s destruction.
“We start addressing this catastrophe by utilizing every instrument to safeguard Americans’ health,” Warren told HuffPost. “An extremist Supreme Court reversing Roe and Republican lawmakers criminalizing abortion is a national emergency.”
“The president has emphasised the need to change the filibuster and elect more senators who support abortion rights in order to make Roe the law of the land, and I firmly believe that the Biden administration’s executive steps on reproductive rights are the proper course to take. The following action should be the declaration of a public health emergency.
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The administration has recently taken significant steps to defend abortion rights, such as signing an executive order that guarantees the availability of contraception, emergency contraceptives like Plan B, and medical abortion. In order to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act and codify Roe, Biden also urged the Senate to waive the filibuster rule. This week, HHS released a number of memos to clarify federal regulations that protect medical professionals who decide to perform emergency abortions and provide protections to patients whose prescriptions for reproductive health care services are denied.
Senate Democrats, however, think the administration can accomplish more. The senators stated that, similar to what the administration has done during the COVID-19 outbreak, declaring a public health emergency would enable Biden to “unlock enormous flexibilities and resources for federal, state, and local governments” in order to defend abortion rights.
Specifically, a public health emergency would broaden the population covered by Medicaid programmes, enabling patients to get insurance coverage for out-of-state medical costs and permit doctors licensed in one state to provide reproductive health care in other states. Additionally, it would safeguard access to medication abortion while assisting HHS in its efforts to learn more about which areas in the post-Roe world will require the most assistance.
If Biden declared a public health emergency, it would also benefit doctors who provide abortion care in conditions that are dangerous to their health or lives, which HHS said it is concentrating on this week. Furthermore, it would enable HHS to send federal, state, and local medical workers across the nation, particularly to rural places where access to abortion has all but vanished.
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The Biden-Harris administration “must utilise every instrument within its power to fight back,” the senators said, “even if it is impossible to immediately restore the damage wrought by the Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade.” “…Your leadership is more crucial than ever during this historic crisis for women.”
On the day Roe has overturned just over two weeks ago, Warren and colleague Senate Democrat Tina Smith (Minn.), who also signed the letter on Wednesday, had already urged Biden to declare a national emergency. However, the White House claimed that because it “doesn’t release a large amount of legal authority” to defend reproductive rights, it “didn’t seem like a great option.” After that, Biden changed his mind and told reporters he was thinking about announcing a public health emergency.