Biden expands abortion, contraception protections on Roe anniversary

The White House on Monday is announcing new steps intended to ensure access to contraception, abortion medication and emergency abortions at hospitals. It represents President Biden’s latest bid to contrast himself with Republican challengers who support strict abortion limits and arrives on the anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling that guaranteed abortion rights for nearly 50 years.

The effort to expand access to contraception involves several measures. Federal agencies are issuing guidance that would make no-cost contraceptives more available under the Affordable Care Act and take similar actions to expand contraception access for federal employees. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra also plans to send a letter to health insurers instructing them of their obligation to provide no-cost contraceptives, according to a memo the White House sent to reporters Sunday.

The federal health department also announced a new team dedicated to enforcing its interpretation of a law, known as the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA, which the Biden administration has said requires hospitals to provide emergency abortions nationwide, including in the 21 states where the procedure is limited or banned.

Meanwhile, Biden on Monday is expected to convene two dozen senior officials in the White House for a meeting of his reproductive health task force, where he will be joined by several physicians who have practiced in states with abortion bans. Vice President Harris is slated to kick off a multistate reproductive rights tour with a visit to Wisconsin, where she is expected to criticize a proposal by state Republicans to ban abortion after 14 weeks of pregnancy. Wisconsin’s Democratic governor has already said he will veto the bill.

“On this day and every day, Vice President Harris and I are fighting to protect women’s reproductive freedom against Republicans’ dangerous, extreme, and out-of-touch agenda,” Biden said in a statement.

The Biden administration’s actions — coming on what would have been the 51st anniversary of the landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade, before the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion in 2022 — reflect Democrats’ ongoing effort to highlight an issue that gives them a strong political advantage. Fifty-eight percent of all voters, including about 1 in 5 Republicans, said they trust Democrats more than Republicans on abortion, according to a November poll conducted by KFF, a health policy organization.

“Where abortion has been on the ballot, the American people have overwhelmingly voted to protect reproductive freedom,” Jennifer Klein, director of the White House’s Gender Policy Council, told reporters last week, citing states such as Kansas and Ohio where voters last year sided with measures protecting abortion rights.

Biden and Harris are slated to make their first joint campaign appearance of the year on Tuesday in Northern Virginia, alongside first lady Jill Biden and second gentleman Douglas Emhoff, where all four White House principals will focus on reproductive heath issues, campaign officials said.

The moves highlight Biden’s effort to shore up support among key allies, who have called for the White House to take stronger action to boost abortion access. Abortion rights advocates have been frustrated with the administration’s implementation of the emergency-care law, citing a case in which federal officials did not penalize an Oklahoma hospital that denied an emergency abortion to a woman with a potentially life-threatening pregnancy complication.

Biden officials have insisted that the president is the nation’s strongest defender of abortion rights, contrasting his efforts with Republicans who are attempting to replace him.

Former president Donald Trump, seeking to reclaim the White House, has bragged about his role in America’s reversal on abortion access. As president, Trump nominated three of the five Supreme Court justices who voted to overturn Roe in 2022.

“For 54 years, they were trying to get Roe v. Wade terminated, and I did it,” he said at a Fox News town hall this month. “I’m proud to have done it.”

Trump’s staunch supporters in the antiabortion movement have begun to envision how he would carry out their agenda, such as enacting new restrictions on abortion pills. However, Trump has said that Republicans should consider moderating their focus on abortion bans. “You have to win elections,” he said at the town hall.

Biden officials have said they are continuing to work with Congress to enact legislation that would provide a national right to abortion.

“As we’ve been really clear, the president, the vice president, everyone in the administration, the number one priority for all of us is working to pass a federal law that will restore the protections that were lost when Roe was overturned,” Klein told reporters last week.

Little evidence exists of common ground on Capitol Hill. House and Senate Republicans have made repeated efforts to target abortion access, including introducing legislation last week that would implement a 50 percent tax credit for donations made to crisis pregnancy centers, which aim to dissuade women from having abortions.

“Despite what the radical pro-abortion left wants us to believe, the pro-life movement is also a pro-woman movement with a long history of empowering women during pregnancy and after,” Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), who co-authored the legislation, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats last week held an event where they vowed to continue combating Republicans’ antiabortion legislation.

“This isn’t a PR problem for women — it is a living hell and a personal nightmare,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said.

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