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SCOTUS reproductive rights

Reproductive rights advocates protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. on May 2, 2022 following the publication of a draft opinion suggesting Roe v. Wade will soon be overturned. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

In 'Crisis Moment' for Abortion Rights, Biden Weighs Declaring Public Health Emergency

"This is a five-alarm fire," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, "and we cannot wait to respond."

Jake Johnson

With the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court expected to overturn Roe v. Wade as soon as this month, President Joe Biden is reportedly weighing a number of executive orders to protect abortion rights at the federal level—including declaration of a national public health emergency—as progressive lawmakers and rights groups push him to act.

The New York Times, citing unnamed administration officials, reported Thursday that "some of the ideas under consideration include declaring a national public health emergency, readying the Justice Department to fight any attempt by states to criminalize travel for the purpose of obtaining an abortion, and asserting that Food and Drug Administration regulations granting approval to abortion medications preempt any state bans."

"This is a five-alarm fire and we cannot wait to respond."

Last week, Biden signaled that his administration is examining potential unilateral action should right-wing Justice Samuel Alito's recently leaked draft decision be made final by the high court.

"There's some executive orders I could employ, we believe—we're looking at that right now," the president said in an appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"

Reproductive rights groups have been pressuring Biden to do everything in his power to shield abortion protections after Senate Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) filibustered the Women's Health Protection Act last month, ending any hopes that Congress would act ahead of the Supreme Court's decision.

If the high court strikes down Roe, 26 Republican-controlled U.S. states are likely to enact total abortion bans. GOP lawmakers in some states are also considering legislation that would bar residents from traveling across state lines to obtain abortions.

"We are at a crisis moment for abortion access in this country, and officials at all levels of government must respond—including the executive branch," Marya Torrez, senior director of policy development and strategy at Planned Parenthood, told the Times on Thursday.

As Common Dreams reported last week, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) sent a letter imploring Biden to spearhead a "whole-of-government response" to nationwide attacks on abortion rights.

In total, 24 Senate Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) signed onto the letter, which urged Biden to direct federal agencies to lift the remaining restrictions on medication abortion—which now accounts for more than half of all abortions in the U.S.—and "provide vouchers for travel, child care services, and other forms of support for individuals seeking to access abortion care that is unavailable in their home state."

During a press conference on Wednesday, Warren said that "we face an extremist Supreme Court that is trying to overrule Roe, and we face politicians who are ready to swoop in and take advantage the moment the Supreme Court acts."

"So far this year, they have introduced more than 550 abortion restrictions in 40 states, and Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in Washington have made clear where we're headed next," Warren continued. "They have said quite openly that if they can seize control of government, then they will ban abortions all across this country. Let us be clear: the American people oppose this extremist agenda."

"This is a five-alarm fire," the senator added, "and we cannot wait to respond."


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