Jun 28, 2022
Under pressure to respond forcefully to the Supreme Court's decision to strike down Roe v. Wade, Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday said the White House is not currently discussing the idea of using federal property to ensure access to abortion services for those living in states that have banned or are moving to ban the procedure.
Asked specifically about the proposal during an interview with CNN's Dana Bash, Harris initially dodged the question, saying the Biden administration is looking to "do everything we can to empower women to not only seek but to receive the care where it is available."
When Bash followed up, Harris said the idea is "not right now what we are discussing."
"We are 130-odd days away from an election, which is going to include Senate races," Harris added. "Part of the issue here is the court is acting, and now Congress needs to act."
The vice president did say the White House is exploring options to guarantee that pregnant people have "access to the medication they need" and "freedom of travel" as Republican-controlled states look to restrict their residents' ability to obtain abortion care across state lines.
After Harris' interview aired, an unnamed White House official toldInsider that "while this [federal lands] proposal is well-intentioned, it could put women and providers at risk."
"And importantly, in states where abortion is now illegal," the official added, "women and providers who are not federal employees could be potentially be prosecuted."
Several prominent Democratic lawmakers, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), have called on the Biden administration to urgently and creatively use all of the federal resources at its disposal--including property--to provide access to abortion in Republican-led states where it's now outlawed.
Eight states, including Texas and Oklahoma, enacted total abortion bans almost immediately after the Supreme Court's right-wing majority handed down its ruling ending Roe, and others will soon follow as reproductive rights groups attempt to fight back with lawsuits and mass mobilizations.
Before Harris' interview aired Monday, Warren suggested that the Biden administration could move to set up Planned Parenthood outposts on the edges of national parks. Utah, Texas, and South Dakota are among the Republican-led states where such a strategy could be deployed--almost certainly sparking legal pushback from GOP officials.
"They could put up tents, have trained personnel--and be there to help people who need it," Warren told the Washington Post. "It's time to declare a medical emergency."
During a Friday rally in New York City, Ocasio-Cortez urged the Biden administration to "open abortion clinics on federal lands in red states right now," an effort that would likely involve utilizing Defense Department and Veterans Affairs facilities.
The New York Democrat characterized such a move--one of several she's urging the administration to take--as "the babiest of the babiest of the baby steps."
\u201c- Restrain judicial review\n- Expand the court\n- Clinics on federal lands\n- Expand education and access to Plan C\n- Repeal Hyde\n- Hold floor votes codifying Griswold, Obergefell, Lawrence, Loving, etc\n- Vote on Escobar\u2019s bill protecting clinics\n\nWe can do it!\nWe can at least TRY\u201d— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) 1656264017
As Vox's Li Zhou explains, "Because federal lands aren't subject to states' civil laws and there's room to interpret criminal laws, clinics could theoretically establish themselves on places like military bases without having to deal with a state's bans."
Zhou cites Khiara Bridges of U.C. Berkeley's Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice, who said last month that "even though the land is inside the border of a state, it wouldn't be governed by the laws of a state."
The Supreme Court's ruling on Friday forced a number of clinics in GOP-dominated states across the country to cease operations, leaving many people seeking abortions confused about their options as trigger bans took effect.
In states such as Tennessee, trigger laws won't become active for several weeks, causing a chaotic scramble among providers and patients. In states where abortion services are now prohibited, people may be forced to turn to international telehealth companies to obtain medication abortion.
At some clinics, including Alamo Women's Reproductive Services Clinic in San Antonio, patients had to be turned away on the morning of the high court's ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization.
"The Supreme Court made this decision today and, unfortunately, your geographical location affects your bodily autonomy," Andrea Gallegos, the administrator of the San Antonio clinic, told patients waiting in the facility's lobby.
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