Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services, hinted Tuesday that the Biden administration was again considering declaring a national public health emergency as a way to circumvent states that have clamped down on abortion access.
As first reported by Axios, Becerra said the administration was still evaluating all options for assisting women, particularly those who live in strongly conservative states. Becerra described the health crisis move as under evaluation, not as a pending or forthcoming strategy.
“There are discussions on a wide range of measures … that we can take to try to protect people’s rights,” Becerra said. “There are certain criteria that you look for to be able to declare a public health emergency. 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.”
Were an emergency to be declared, the net result would be the Biden administration receiving greater access to federal dollars that could then be used to assist women in traveling to other states to receive an abortion or receiving abortion-related healthcare and medication.
Such a move would be novel and all-but-guaranteed to wind up the focus of a lengthy court battle. Previous national public health emergency declarations have been in response to rampant opioid addictions, natural disasters, and COVID.
Republicans have framed their opposition around the concept of a declaration being a direct refusal to adhere to the Supreme Court.
“The Biden White House wants to circumvent the rule of law and delegitimize the Supreme Court’s ruling by declaring a ‘public health emergency’ for abortion,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted. “They truly want to abolish the right to life.”
The Biden White House wants to circumvent the rule of law and delegitimize the Supreme Court’s ruling by declaring a "public health emergency" for abortion.
They truly want to abolish the right to life.
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) January 31, 2023
This is not the first time that Becerra and the administration have floated the idea of making such a declaration.
Last June, Becerra said “every option” would be “on the table” as the administration sought to respond to the now-well-known Dobbs decision. At the time, HHS officials described the crisis declaration as a poor option.
True to Becerra’s word, President Joe Biden has made numerous attempts to rewiden abortion access for women who live in red states.
In July, the President signed an order declaring that emergency medical care included abortions, even in states where abortions were illegal.
One month later, Biden signed an executive order to create a Medicaid fund that would pay for women to travel out of state for abortions.