A total of 83 House Democrats sent a letter to President Biden asking him to declare a public health emergency for abortion access. These are members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, who are set to meet with HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra today.
They are pleading with the president to use his authority under the PREP Act to help ensure continued access to medication abortion nationwide.
Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion, and the authority to regulate abortion was returned to individual states. After Roe v. Wade was overturned, abortions have become restricted in many states. Medication abortions now accounts for half of all abortions in the United States, with some states restricting or banning it.
"The Supreme Court's radical and dangerous decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization has precipitated a full-scale reproductive health crisis across our nation," the letter states. "It has also plunged our health system into a state of uncertainty and upheaval that threatens patients' lives.
"Abortion bans can unnecessarily impede lifesaving medical procedures in the event of pregnancy complications or loss. Health experts warn that in the aftermath of this disastrous ruling, the U.S. maternal mortality rate — which is already the highest in the developed world — is certain to rise, with disproportionate impacts on communities of color."
The impact of this ruling is not limited to health systems in states where abortion is now illegal, they write: "Abortion providers have reported that patients in need of abortion are seeking care in other states, causing unprecedented strain on limited resources and delaying care for residents."
A public health emergency declaration can provide significant new authority and flexibility for a federal emergency response, the letter goes on to say: "We respectfully urge you to quickly issue a National Emergency and Public Health Emergency declaration and use your authority under the PREP Act to protect abortion access."
President Biden has faced a lot of pressure within his own party over abortion. Last week he signed an executive order directing agencies to take steps to protect access to abortions.
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