President Joe Biden said he is considering declaring abortion a public health emergency as Republican states ban the medical procedure following the Supreme Court’s decision that struck down its ruling in Roe vs. Wade.
Biden was on a bike ride in Lewes, Del., on Sunday when he stopped to speak with reporters who asked him if he was considering declaring abortion a public health emergency, as some in his party and activists have asked.
The president responded that he’s directed the medical personnel of his administration to see “whether I have the authority to do that and what impact that would have.”
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The comment came a day after hundreds of Women’s March protesters rallied outside the White House, demanding that Biden use his executive privilege to do more to protect access to abortion. Biden signed an executive order on Friday that took a number of steps toward protecting access to abortion, privacy and emergency contraception.
Several Republican-led states have moved to ban abortion since the Supreme Court revoked federal protections for the procedure by overturning the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling in a Mississippi case last month.
Nancy Northup, president and chief executive of the Center for Reproductive Rights, called on Biden in an op-ed published by The Washington Post to immediately declare a public health emergency for abortion.
“The declaration would be based on the well-documented adverse health consequences of restricted access to abortion care, which include complications and maternal death associated with pregnancy, childbirth and unsafe abortion methods,” Northup wrote.
On Friday, Jen Klein, the director of the White House Gender Policy Council, told reporters during a press conference that while the administration is looking at all options to protect access to abortion, declaring a public health emergency doesn’t “seem like a great option.”
“When we looked at the public health emergency, we learned a couple things. One, is that it doesn’t free very many resources,” she said. “It’s what’s in the public health emergency fund and there’s very little money — tens of thousands of dollars in it.
“It also doesn’t release a significant amount of legal authority. And so that’s why we haven’t taken that action yet.”
When asked Sunday about those who protested outside the White House, Biden encouraged them to keep making their voices heard
“It’s critically important,” he said. “We can do a lot of things to accommodate the rights of women in the meantime. But, fundamentally, the only that that’s going to change this is if we have a national law that reinstates Roe vs. Wade.”
Biden urged Americans on Friday to vote in November for congressional candidates who will codify legalized abortion nationwide into federal law.
“The only way we do that is through an election in the United States Congress,” he reiterated on Sunday. “So, my ultimate goal is to reinstate Roe vs. Wade as the national law by passing it in the United States Congress.
“And I’ll sign it the moment that happens.”
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