(WASHINGTON) — In his address in response to last week’s landmark Supreme Court ruling overturning the abortion access guarantee, President Joe Biden urged Americans to vote on the issue — both for elect local leaders who would also guarantee the availability of abortion in their states. as Democrats in Congress where he would like to see a law passed cementing a national abortion right.
Within minutes of Biden’s remarks, many progressive activists, reproductive health care advocates, and even other Democratic lawmakers online took a collective roundup.
Then on Friday afternoon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a group singing “God Bless America” on the steps of the Capitol and that eye-roll from the left turned into a groan.
“‘Vote!” and fundraising emails are the Democrat version of ‘thoughts and prayers,'” Nina Turner, former Ohio State Senator and alternate Senator Bernie Sanders, who is one of favorites in progressive circles.
Monica Lewsinky echoed this, writing, “Now is not the time for words – poems + singing on the steps. It’s time to act: get rid of the filibuster, wrap the f—- short + codify the eggs. at least fight.
Across the country, there were scenes over the weekend of pro-abortion protesters chanting phrases such as “Democrats, we’re calling your bluff, voting blue isn’t enough” and backlash from the far left about fundraising emails and text messages sent by the Democratic National Committee asking for “urgent” donations to support candidates who would hit back at abortion opponents.
“If you’re a lawmaker who, between leak and decision, has spent more manpower on a fundraising plan than a policy response, then I strongly recommend that you rethink your priorities. Our work in this moment is to protect people. This will incite the vote more than intimidate,” New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote, retweeting a video of young female voters who said they were frustrated that Democrats didn’t failed to act to codify Roe into law years ago — with Democrats in turn saying they were blocked by the 60-vote filibuster threshold.
Biden has repeatedly said that only Congress can pass legislation to fully restore the right to abortion nationwide and that he is looking for steps he can take within the limits of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal dollars spent on abortion care. except to save the life of the mother or in case of rape or incest.
But without the current votes to pass a nationwide abortion access law, Democrats in the House and Senate have presented a number of other policy proposals they believe the president could still act on, even at Hyde’s Light, ahead of the midterm elections.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have specifically called on the Biden administration to declare a public health emergency, arguing that doing so would free up federal dollars to perhaps support clinics in blue states that are expecting a wave of new patients from states. reds that have or will soon ban abortion in all or most cases.
“At this unprecedented time, we must urgently act as if lives depend on it because they do,” the group of lawmakers wrote in a Friday letter to the White House, citing high maternal mortality rates. of the country compared to other developed countries, especially among black women.
Washington Senator Patty Murray, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health Education and Labor, expressed frustration over the weekend that Biden’s team was not ready with a plan of action. executives on the day the decision was made, particularly after a draft of the advice was leaked more than a month ago.
In a letter to the White House in early June, Murray and others urged the administration to begin looking at ways to protect patients’ personal health and location data, as well as to determine whether health services reproduction could be provided on federal lands or on federal property. .
“I want President Biden to do absolutely everything in his power to protect access to abortion in America — let’s really push the envelope to protect women in this country, and let’s do it now,” Murray said. to ABC News in a written statement Monday night, adding that she understood there were limits to her authority.
Leaders and activists who champion this idea of using federal lands have argued that Hyde was designed to prevent the use of federal funds to pay for abortion services – most often to prevent women receiving a government-run health insurance to be able to obtain abortion care paid for or reimbursed by the government. But they say that by renting premises, the government would earn money and not spend it.
“I think they were ready”
Other proponents of abortion access took a different view of the White House’s response, though they agreed they wanted Biden to do more.
“I think they were ready for now,” said Mini Timmaraju, NARAL’s president. “I think their reaction – although it came a little earlier than we all expected – was vigorous.”
Timmaraju said she was “pleased” with Biden’s remarks and “encouraged” by his and Vice President Kamala Harris’s work so far, but said “I really think we need to see more details on what the White House has announced so far. such as access to medication for abortions and protection for women who travel to other states for treatment.
She added that she was ’empathetic to the situation they found themselves in’ as it was ‘difficult to get more details as we wait to see the parameters of what the court will decide’.
Asked about federal land use on Monday, Harris told CNN, “That’s not what we’re discussing right now.” A White House official told ABC, “While this proposal is well-intentioned, it could endanger women and providers.”
Others questioned whether, within the limits of the Hyde restriction, federal funds could be used to help women with abortion-related expenses, such as travel out of state, or to provide medical services. abortion to rape victims in states, like Arkansas, where new bans have no such exceptions.
Responding to some of these calls for action, a White House official told ABC News in a written statement, “We will continue to review anything we can do, consistent with Hyde, to protect the right to a woman to choose, but Hyde generally prohibits abortion funding except in cases of rape, incest, and threat to the life of the mother. Unfortunately, there are not enough votes in Congress to repeal it. , just as there are not enough currently to restore Roe. This also explains why we want more members of Congress who share our view on the urgency of this.
Speaking with ABC News’ Martha Raddatz on “This Week,” Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren doubled down on the idea of using federal lands to make abortion care as available as possible. Warren, like Ocasio-Cortez and other Democratic lawmakers, also called on the president to outline plans to make medical abortion available in every state.
Biden said Friday he was directing the Department of Health and Human Services to try to “take steps to ensure” that birth control and drugs like mifepristone, which can end early pregnancy, are as widely available. available as possible.
Other reproductive health care advocates have argued that the White House could and should help provide at least more information, as state laws are changing rapidly and creating so much confusion for patients.
Timmaraju, the president of NARAL, said the White House Gender Policy Council and the vice president’s office have held “a ton” of listening sessions and roundtables and talked to providers and advocates of what is possible.
Timmaraju and another reproductive rights advocate called on Biden to declare a national public health emergency like the government did for COVID-19.
The attorney, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, said Biden should speak out more.
“We appreciate that the Biden administration obviously came out very quickly to take a stand, but more can and must be done,” this person said. “The No. 1 priority must be to reduce harm, and they must use the bully pulpit as much and as often as possible to raise awareness.”
As the federal government launched ReproductiveRights.gov, Timmaraju and the other advocate said they wanted the White House to take additional steps to ensure greater access to information.
“There are so many uncertainties and unknowns” about the abortion pill, for example, the lawyer said. “This is information that the Biden administration can and should put on this website.”
“How can anyone be satisfied with how quickly a right was removed and immediately prevented people from accessing health care in their state?” said the lawyer.
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