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Tipsheet

From One Public Health Emergency to the Next: Biden Admin. Considers Declaration on Abortion

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

While President Joe Biden just informed Congress on Monday that he would end the COVID-19 national emergency and public health emergency declarations on May 11, it appears his administration is considering going with another declaration. In this instance, it's to do with abortion, which the supposedly "devout Catholic" president has made a focal point of his presidency, especially after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade with the Dobbs v. Jackson case last June. 

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An Axios report from Oriana Gonzalez points to a July 12, 2022 letter from Democrats in the 117th Congress, encouraging the president to declare a public health emergency declaration. The letter also mentioned a specific focus on chemical abortion, also known as medication abortion.

The lawmakers called on Biden to issue such a declaration so as "to help ensure continued access to medication abortion across the country," for instance. The issue of chemical abortion has been increasingly a larger one when it comes to addressing abortion in a post-Roe world.

Shortly before the letter was sent out, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during the July 8 press briefing that such a declaration "didn't seem like a great option."

Since then, though, the Biden administration has only gotten even more emboldened in its pro-abortion stance.

As Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra explained, per Gonzalez's report:

What he's saying: "There are discussions on a wide range of measures ... that we can take to try to protect people's rights," HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra told Axios during a pair of Monday public events that touched on reproductive health access.

  • "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," Becerra added, when asked about a public health emergency declaration on abortion.
  • He said that there hasn't been a "full assessment" on what a declaration on abortion would look like and whether conditions merit it, but there's still "an evaluation" on the topic.

Don't forget: "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.

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When it comes to the authority, the report mentions how "HHS has the authority when the secretary determines that a 'disease or disorder presents a public health emergency,'" though it's worth reminding that pregnancy is not a disease. Such authority has been used in a rather lax manner, though, with Gonzalez adding that the "designation has been broadly used to respond to natural disasters, the opioid crisis, as well as diseases like the coronavirus, per a report from the Network for Public Health Law."

The declaration would not merely apply to chemical abortion, though:

How it works: An emergency declaration "would potentially make it easier for people who need to travel out-of-state to get abortions or to get abortion medication. It would make available funding that wouldn't otherwise be there to address those unmet needs," said Mary Ziegler, a professor of law the University of California, Davis, who specializes in abortion issues.

President Biden has issued executive orders on abortion as it applies to funding before, raising concerns that his administration would be violating federal law by circumventing the Hyde Amendment. The budget rider which has passed every year, which the president and many other Democrats have been hellbent on seeking to get rid of, prevents taxpayer dollars from going towards elective abortions.

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Many Republican members in the House and Senate have spoken out against the orders, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) chief among them. On Tuesday, he reintroduced the Prohibiting Federal Emergencies for Abortion Act to prevent exactly what the administration is looking to do. Rubio also on Tuesday sent a letter to Government Accountability Office (GAO) Comptroller General Gene Dodaro inquiring about pharmacies being able to provide abortion-inducing drugs. 

Students for Life of America (SFLA), which has spoken out at length against the Biden administration's abortion preoccupation, including and especially on chemical abortion, also emailed out a press release on Tuesday. 

"Biden's Abortion obsessed administration wants to basically declare Martial Law to take control of our society with the same health care regulations used to control Americans during the height of the COVID crisis. This is an abuse of a process that was created to SAVE lives, not end them," said Kristan Hawkins, president of SFLA. "Even so, we saw how the regulations were abused, and used against Americans when it really was a health issue being debated. But pregnancy is not a disease, and its fake cure is not abortion. The best healthcare should be used to see both mother and child safely cared for and loved."

Hawkins, adding they "are already taking steps to address this," also mentioned that "Violating people's rights of conscience to push abortion in all 50 states using the thuggish tactics of Biden weaponized HHS and DOJ will be opposed with all our resources."

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Earlier this month, a poll by YouGov-Vinea from Students for Life of America’s (SFLA) Demetree Institute for Pro-Life Advancement found that young people overwhelmingly oppose how relaxed the Biden administration has made the chemical abortion method. 

Another way to get around such a declaration is a lawsuit that is likely to follow. Professor Mary Ziegler, who specializes on the abortion issue and is also quoted above, told Axios "It would be hard to imagine a federal court challenge to that ... ending well for the administration..."

Perhaps the most likely sign that a declaration is coming came from Becerra, who also claims to be Catholic. The HHS secretary tweeted no less than eight pro-abortion messages from his official account on Monday and Tuesday.

Some tweets applauded states that perform abortions and have even expanded abortion availability while neighboring states may not, which Becerra made sure to condemn as well.

The most recent tweets, as of Tuesday evening, even discussed abortion from an international perspective, under the guise of "reproductive health."

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As one of several tweets promoting Planned Parenthood, which performs more abortions than any other entity in the country, Becerra tweeted out a video claiming "Abortion care is health care, plain and simple" and one also bragging about how he was the first HHS secretary to visit a Planned Parenthood clinic.

If such a preoccupation with abortion is this much of a priority for the Biden administration and the HHS secretary, such a declaration may very well be likely unfortunately. 

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