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Lee, Pressley, Bush

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.)—flanked by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.)—speaks at the U.S. Capitol on December 8, 2021. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Pressley Leads Call for Biden to Declare Public Health Emergency as Roe Ruling Looms

"In this unprecedented moment, we must act urgently as if lives depend on it because they do," said Rep. Ayanna Pressley and 19 other Democratic congresswomen.

Jake Johnson

As the country braces for the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court's decision in a case challenging Roe v. Wade, a coalition of Black congresswomen led by Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Barbara Lee, and Cori Bush implored President Joe Biden on Friday to declare a public health emergency to shield abortion rights nationwide.

"We urge you to use any and all executive authorities to address the public health crisis our nation will face if Roe v. Wade is dismantled."

"Any day now, the extreme right-wing Supreme Court majority is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, reversing nearly 50 years of settled law and legal precedent—a move that will obliterate legal abortion rights across the nation and exacerbate multiple public health crises disproportionately impacting Black communities," the group of 20 House Democrats wrote in a letter to the president.

"The effects of this decision on the lives and health of Black women and pregnant people will be devastating and require an urgent and whole-of-government response," the lawmakers warned, pointing to "a harrowing study" published in December showing that "banning abortion across the United States would result in an estimated 21% increase in maternal deaths across all races, and a 33% increase in maternal deaths among Black individuals."

To avert such devastating outcomes if the Supreme Court ultimately strikes down Roe—a decision that could come as soon as Friday—the House lawmakers are calling on Biden to declare "a public health and national emergency."

"We urge you to use any and all executive authorities to address the public health crisis our nation will face if Roe v. Wade is dismantled," they wrote. "Declaring a public health emergency and national emergency will allow your administration to utilize additional flexibilities and deploy resources where necessary. In this unprecedented moment, we must act urgently as if lives depend on it because they do."

Last week, the New York Times reported that a public health emergency is among the slate of executive actions Biden is considering as the Supreme Court's right-wing majority appears poised to overturn Roe, a move that could spur 26 Republican-led states to ban abortion outright.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, lawmakers in 42 states have introduced 541 abortion restrictions this year, and 42 have been enacted in 11 states. Last month, Oklahoma became the first U.S. state to implement a total ban on abortion care.

"Democrats need to use every tool at their disposal to protect women and their constitutional right to an abortion," Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said in a statement earlier this month. "President Biden's executive authority to marshal the resources of the entire federal government is one of our most powerful tools."

"With an extremist Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe v. Wade," Warren added, "now is the time to act."

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