Biden Administration Contemplates Declaring Abortion Emergency
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said Monday that his department is conducting “an evaluation” about whether to declare a public health emergency declaration regarding abortion.
The evaluation comes amid a “discussions on a wide range of measures,” explained Becerra, and the department has yet to conduct a “full assessment.” Still, the concept has developed far enough that the secretary chose to float the possibility of an emergency declaration publicly. HHS did not respond to a request for comment about the status and nature of its assessment.
When asked last summer about declaring a public health emergency to promote abortion, Jen Klein, director of the White House Gender Policy Council said it “didn’t seem like a great option” because of its negligible impact. The White House has not indicated whether its position has changed.
“It would be nothing short of political theater for the Biden administration to declare a public health emergency over pro-life laws protecting children from being killed in their mothers’ wombs,” Joy Stockbauer, policy analyst for Family Research Council’s Center for Human Dignity, told The Washington Stand. “This move would only mark a desperate ploy to maintain the good graces of the abortion extremists among the Democrat base.”
“There are certain criteria that you look for to be able to declare a public health emergency,” continued Becerra. “That’s typically done by scientists and those that are professionals in those fields who will tell us whether we are in a state of emergency. And, based on that, I have the ability to make a declaration.”
Per 42 U.S. Code 247d, to declare a public health emergency, the HHS secretary must determine that “(1) a disease or disorder presents a public health emergency; or (2) a public health emergency, including significant outbreaks of infectious diseases or bioterrorist attacks, otherwise exists.” Declaring a public health emergency grants the HHS secretary power to take “appropriate” actions, “including making grants, providing awards for expenses, and entering into contracts and conducting and supporting investigations into the cause, treatment, or prevention of a disease or disorder.” This including accessing a special public health emergency fund and even temporarily reassigning other federally-funded personnel.
UC Davis law professor Mary Ziegler said that a public health emergency on abortion “would potentially make it easier for people who need to travel out-of-state to get abortions or to get abortion medication.” “Their goal here is to get abortion drugs over the counter,” Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kans.) pointed out on “Washington Watch.” “This is the most pro-abortion administration in the history of our country.”
“It would be highly concerning if the administration used a public health emergency to fast-track new forms of chemical abortion drugs, given that those already in existence are four times more dangerous for women than even surgical abortions are,” said Stockbauer.
Becerra’s remarks came on the same day as the White House announced plans to extend two COVID emergency declarations one last time. The COVID-19 national emergency is currently scheduled to expire on March 1, and the COVID-19 public health emergency is currently scheduled to expire on April 11. In a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP), the White House said it plans “to extend the emergency declarations to May 11, and then end both emergencies on that date.”
“They’re going to replace one emergency with another,” said FRC President Tony Perkins, host of “Washington Watch.”
The SAP came in response to two resolutions introduced in the U.S. House, H.J. Res 7 and H.R. 382, which propose to end the national emergency and public health emergency declarations, respectively. It argued that terminating the declarations immediately instead of several months in the future would “create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system.”
But Perkins noted that “everybody but Washington has returned to normal.” Even President Biden declared “the pandemic is over” during a “60 Minutes” interview way back in September, Perkins pointed out, “but now we have to wait until May for it to be over.”
“Mr. President, if you know it’s the right thing to do, don’t wait until May,” pleaded House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.). “Let’s open our country back up again, get our economy back up again. Let these families get their lives moving forward.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic is over,” tweeted Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), who introduced H.R. 382, the Pandemic is Over Act. “It’s long overdue to end the COVID-19 PHE [public health emergency] and for President Biden to relinquish his emergency powers.”
It’s not just legislators who can push back against this executive overreach; ordinary citizens can play a role, too. Perkins predicted the Biden administration is “going to draw a strong reaction from Americans for the misuse of government power.” Marshall urged citizens to “reach out to their own lawmakers” regarding the “past overdue” termination of the COVID-19 emergencies and the possible declaration of an abortion emergency. “I would say write a letter to the White House, but I think they would ignore it. So please start with your own legislators,” he urged.
Joshua Arnold is a staff writer at The Washington Stand.