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Biden Considers Declaring Abortion a Public Health Emergency

July 11, 2022

Over the weekend, President Joe Biden told reporters that he is considering declaring abortion a public health emergency. This executive decision could potentially free up immediate federal funds to promote abortions. 

While on a bike ride in Delaware, Biden stopped to talk to reporters. “Keep protesting,” he said. “Keep making your point. It’s critically important. We can do a lot of things to accommodate the rights of women.”

The president’s comments came after executive director of the White House Policy Council, Jen Klein, opposed the idea of declaring abortion a public health emergency during a press briefing.

“When we looked at the public health emergency, we learned a couple of things. One is that it doesn’t free [up] very many resources. It’s what’s in a public health emergency fund, and there’s very little money — tens of thousands of dollars — in it. So that didn’t seem like a great option. And it also doesn’t release significant amount of legal authority,” Klein told reporters. 

Connor Semelsberger, director of Federal Affairs at Family Research Council, thinks this exposes the “tug of war” between what pro-abortion activists are demanding of the administration and what the White House knows is feasible. 

“… [I]t’s unclear what the Biden administration would even do if they declared a public health emergency for abortion. They are not only very restricted by what funds they can use but the Hyde Amendment actually prohibits our federal government from paying for abortions directly,” Semelsberger explained.

In the past, the presidential authority to declare an emergency was reserved for times of great distress, like in 2005 when the Bush administration released funds to support relief efforts in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.

“This action by the president would be for political means, more so than actually helping the American people,” Semelsberger said. “It’s very concerning and alarming what that would mean for future administrations. Setting this precedent could open the door for future presidents to declare anything a public health emergency.”

Meanwhile, congressional Democrats are fighting to have abortion on demand reinforced throughout all 50 states, most recently with their expansive Women’s Health Protection Act of 2022 and the new Ensuring Access to Abortion Act, which are both scheduled for a House vote this week

Joy Stockbauer, a policy analyst for FRC’s Center for Human Dignity, sees a hopeful path forward for the pro-life movement. “Democrats are experiencing culture shock as the United States slowly moves towards becoming a society where all human life is treated with equal dignity,” she said. “It is essential that pro-lifers meet their desperate attacks with confidence, compassion, and assurance that the path forward will be better for both babies and their mothers. Despite the vitriol being spread by the Biden administration, I am encouraged and hopeful as we watch a culture of life spreading across our nation.”

Stockbauer believes that Biden’s plans to declare abortion a public health emergency are simply a publicity stunt to boost his popularity.

“Biden thinks that making abortion the hill he dies on will make amends for his myriad of other mistakes in the eyes of voters,” Stockbauer explained.

According to a recent report by the New York Times, 64% of Democratic voters would prefer a different candidate in 2024. 

“So it’s more of rhetoric to show ‘I’m with the pro-abortion side, keep voting for me and my policies,’” Semelsberger asserted. “Like a crooked salesman, Biden is promising to deliver, but not actually ever having to deliver.”

Stockbauer insisted that the “real public health crisis” at the moment is the nationwide rising maternal mortality rate. 

“The U.S. was one of only two nations in the world to report a rising maternal mortality rate between 2000 and 2017 and over one-third of counties in the United States are maternity care deserts,” she observed. “In a nation where abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy had been the law of the land for almost 50 years, it is clear that abortion is not the solution to the real issues that American mothers face.”

“If this administration wants to help women, combatting the 63% of pregnancy-related deaths that are preventable is a great place to start,” Stockbauer concluded.

Deborah Laker serves as a staff writer at The Washington Stand.