The department ‘will work with the Attorney General and the Department of Justice as they work to ensure that states do not ban medical abortion,’ he told reporters, echoing a statement of Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday.
But Becerra’s announcement on Tuesday may not be enough to stem growing criticism from abortion advocates and progressives who argue the Biden administration has done little to prepare for the fall of deer even after POLITICO reported on the draft advisory in May. Congressional Democrats are publicly pressuring the president to adopt more aggressive tactics to protect abortion rights.
Since the Supreme Court ruling allowed states to regulate abortion, 11 have banned or significantly restricted the procedure. Eight more could follow shortly.
Many laws prohibit abortion unless the life of the pregnant person is in danger, which abortion advocates say can be difficult and time-consuming to prove. This can further endanger the lives of parents. Others prohibit abortion beyond six weeks.
Abortion advocates have called on the Biden administration to ensure access to abortion pills and protect personal medical information as people in states that have criminalized the procedure seek abortions.
President Joe Biden said on Friday he had directed Becerra to “take steps to ensure these essential medicines are available to the fullest extent possible.”
However, legal experts and abortion rights advocates say there are many other ways to limit access to the pills, including mail and pharmacy restrictions or by criminalizing possession. The pill, mifepristone, is also FDA approved only up to 10 weeks of pregnancy.
It’s also unclear how the Biden administration will increase access to the pills. When asked at a press conference if HHS would ask the FDA to expedite certifications for pharmacies dispensing mifepristone, Becerra said he was working with the FDA “to ensure that they have every chance of continuing to provide Americans with access to safe and effective treatments.”
Lawrence Gostin, a law professor at Georgetown University who specializes in public health, called on the FDA to clearly state that its scientific review of abortive drugs trumps any state action that limits their use, “and that States cannot choose which FDA-approved drugs they will or will not authorize.
But Becerra did not say on Tuesday what steps the agency might take.
“Patients must have access to safe and effective drugs for their FDA-approved use,” the FDA said Friday in an email statement not attributed to a specific agency official. “In this area, as in all others the FDA regulates, the best available science will continue to guide Agency decision-making.”
Lawmakers decry lack of urgency
Meanwhile, some progressive Democrats in Congress appear unswayed by new rounds of fundraising efforts, propelled by the ruling by the Supreme Court, the Democratic National Committee and party leadership, including the chairman of bedroom. Nancy Pelosi.
“If you are a legislator who, in the time between the leak [and] decision, has devoted more manpower to a fundraising plan than a political response, so I strongly recommend that you rethink your priorities,” the New York representative said. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter. “Our job right now is to protect people. This will lead more to voting than intimidation.
More than half of voters believe the Supreme Court ruling is “a step backwards” according to a CBS News poll over the weekend, and it appears to be motivating abortion rights advocates to vote. Fifty percent of Democrats said they were more likely to vote in November, down from 40% in May.
Biden and party leaders have repeatedly cited midterms as a test for protecting abortion rights.
“This autumn, deer is on the ballot. Individual freedoms are on the ballot. The right to privacy, liberty, equality, they’re all on the ballot,” the president said Friday, pointing out that Congress, not the White House, holds the power to restore protections. against abortion. “No executive action…can do that.”
Becerra and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh met with major insurers on Monday to secure promises that they would cover several forms of birth control at no cost to patients, a requirement imposed by the Affordable Care Act but implemented unevenly.