Pushback from the pro-abortion White House
Action from the Biden administration has been minimal following Roe’s overturn, but some directives still pose challenges
This week marks one month since the Supreme Court released its opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The majority of justices in that case voted to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that invented a federal right to abortion. Without that almost 50-year-old precedent, states now have more freedom to protect unborn babies, but pro-abortion groups have been calling on the Biden administration to intervene.
President Joe Biden earlier this month signed an executive order directing federal agencies to take actions that would attempt to counteract pro-life efforts in states. Many of those will have little overall effect and have disappointed abortion advocates. But some elements of the Biden administration’s July 8 executive order still concern pro-lifers.
Pro-abortion groups, including the pro-abortion Women’s March, have called on the Biden administration to declare a public health emergency following the overturn of Roe. But the administration has so far not taken that action, explaining in a news conference earlier this month that declaring a public health emergency “doesn’t free very many resources,” including funds and legal authority.
Rachel Morrison, fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s HHS Accountability Project, explained another big concern about declaring a public health emergency. “If you make this an emergency, what’s not an emergency, if it’s just the current state of the law? You can’t make everything an emergency,” she said. That and the Hyde Amendment—a budget rider that prevents the government from using federal dollars to pay for abortions—could keep the administration from resorting to this sweeping emergency action.
Morrison said most of the Biden administration’s response to the Dobbs decision has been “mostly just performative.” The direction that Biden gave to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) did not change much at that department, she said, since it was already working on the things that Biden directed it to do in his July 8 executive order.
But some of the HHS actions since then have still frustrated pro-lifers.
The week after Biden signed the executive order, HHS released a misleading letter to healthcare providers, telling them that a federal law regarding the provision of emergency medical treatment requires medical workers to assist patients in emergencies regardless of state laws regulating certain procedures. The letter listed ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage complications as two emergency medical conditions that could threaten the life of a pregnant woman and that hospital staff must treat regardless of state law.
“They’re trying to build a narrative also that the Dobbs decision goes after ectopic pregnancies and life-of-the-mother situations, which is totally ridiculous,” said Tom McClusky, director of government affairs for CatholicVote. All states that regulate abortion already include exceptions to save the life of the mother. Some even specifically clarify that removing an ectopic pregnancy or a baby that has already died in the womb does not count as an abortion.
Morrison said the letter could also be an attempt to give abortionists cover to provide abortions that aren’t necessary to save a mother’s life.
To McClusky, one of the most concerning actions from the administration so far has been the Department of Justice’s creation of a Reproductive Rights Task Force. According to a July 12 statement from the Department, the task force will keep tabs on pro-life state and local laws and enforcement actions. McClusky explained that could effectively stymie pro-life legislative efforts: “It seems that if you are a pro-life legislator and you’re introducing legislation to protect women and the unborn in your state, you could be subjected to a [Justice Department] investigation. … There are a lot of great state legislators out there who won’t care. There’s also a lot of very good legislators who would be supportive of trying to save women and babies who are going to be intimidated by the Department of Justice.”
Morrison found most concerning a portion of the Biden administration’s executive order that encourages the chair of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to “consider options to address deceptive or fraudulent practices” related to abortion. “This seems to be a veiled reference to trying to target pro-life pregnancy centers,” she said, noting that abortion advocates often claim that these centers are fake clinics and spread false information.
Morrison noted that the FTC is an independent agency and that Biden can’t actually direct it to do anything. But she expects to see the FTC take some sort of action in response.
Meanwhile, McClusky noted, the Department of Justice appears to be ignoring the case of the aborted babies discovered by pro-lifers in Washington, D.C. Those abortion procedures appeared to have violated federal laws, but the DOJ is instead going after pro-lifers who participated in a sit-in at the abortion facility.
“There’s been no indication that Department of Justice is actually doing anything, despite the fact that … there are groups like Jane’s Revenge, which are declaring they’re the ones behind and helping along of this violence and intimidation,” said McClusky, referencing the anonymous pro-abortion group that has claimed responsibility for many of the attacks. “There is a conspiratorial thing here and a national concern here for the DOJ to investigate, but it seems like they’re ignoring it, instead focusing on going after pro-lifers.”
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