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Democratic senators press Biden to use 'full force' of federal government to protect abortion

SCOTUS After Dobbs
Participants in a rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C. hold signs expressing their stance on abortion following the decision of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, on June 24, 2022. |

Dozens of Democratic U.S. Senators are pressing President Joe Biden to use his authority to defend abortion access after several states enacted policies to ban or restrict abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade

A day after the nation's high court issued a majority opinion saying there is no constitutional right to abortion and upheld Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban, 34 senators signed a letter calling on Biden to "take immediate action" and use the "full force of the federal government to protect access to abortion in the United States." Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., led the letter. 

The letter decries that many states have "trigger laws" that ban abortion as soon as the court issued its ruling. Several states have already enacted these laws, and more are likely to follow.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, more than 20 states had laws banning abortion on the books that can go into effect in the absence of Roe

"Now is the time for bold action to protect the right to an abortion," the senators wrote. 

"You have the power to fight back and lead a national response to this devastating decision, so we call on you to take every step available to your Administration, across federal agencies, to help women access abortions and other reproductive health care, and to protect those who will face the harshest burdens from this devastating and extreme decision."

A month before the ruling, more than 20 Senate Democrats, including Murray and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., pressed Biden to direct the federal government to develop a "national plan" to safeguard abortion. 

"Now is the time for equally bold action to protect the right to an abortion," the Democratic lawmakers wrote.

 "The Biden-Harris Administration has led on issues of reproductive rights with the establishment of the White House Gender Policy Council, the release of the first-ever National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality, and the launch of a whole-of-government response to Texas's draconian law depriving residents of their constitutional right to an abortion."

"Nevertheless, the dramatic escalation of attacks on abortion access — spearheaded by right-wing justices, lawmakers, and activists — demands comprehensive and creative strategies from every corner of the federal government," they continued.

The senators' list of strategies includes increasing chemical abortion access and assisting women with travel for out-of-state abortions. They also called for a reproductive health ombudsman at the U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) that "could educate the public and analyze data collected by HHS about access to reproductive services." 

The letter proposed allowing abortionists to commit abortions on federal property in states where the practice is banned. 

Vice President Kamala Harris said in a Monday interview with CNN's Dana Bash that the White House isn't currently discussing the possibility of allowing abortion facilities to operate on federal lands. 

Last year, the House of Representatives passed the Women's Health Protection Act, a bill that would have codified the right to abortion into federal law.

The Senate fell short of the 60 votes necessary to invoke cloture and begin debate on the legislation, with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. joining Republicans in opposing the bill. 

In a February statement, Jennifer Popik, National Right to Life Committee's director of federal legislation, said the act would have "quash[ed] nearly all existing protective state laws." 

"With this bill, elective abortion would have become the procedure that must always be facilitated — never delayed, never impeded to the slightest degree," she said. 

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