President Joe Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is considering declaring a public health emergency to promote abortion access, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra told Axios Monday.
The HHS believes it has the authority to declare a public emergency, but it is only one of many options on the table, according to Becerra, who argued there was an ongoing “reproductive health crisis” since Roe v. Wade was overturned. The agency has not completed a full assessment on a declaration, its conditions and whether it’s merited, he told Axios. (RELATED: Dems Melt Down Over Bill Protecting Babies Born Alive After Botched Abortions)
“There are discussions on a wide range of measures … that we can take to try to protect people’s rights,” he said. “There are certain criteria that you look for to be able to declare a public health emergency. That’s typically done by scientists and those that are professionals in those fields who will tell us whether we are in a state of emergency and based on that, I have the ability to make a declaration.”
The declaration could potentially shield abortion providers from liability and block the enforcement of some aspects of state abortion restrictions, according to Temple University professor Rachel Rebouche. It could also result in funding being allocated to women traveling out of state for abortions, Mary Ziegler, a law professor at the University of California, Davis, told Axios.
In the months since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, the Biden administration has pushed for expanded access to abortions through various measures including a July 2022 executive order which directed Becerra to “take additional action to protect and expand access to abortion care, including access to medication that the FDA approved as safe and effective over twenty years ago.” The administration has also reduced regulations on the distribution of abortion pills.
“We are constantly exploring additional actions we can take to protect and expand access to reproductive health care, including abortion care, and are prioritizing the actions that can give us the highest impact and most durable solutions,” an HHS spokesperson told Axios.
The White House and HHS did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.
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