Senate Democrats, including Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, are calling on President Joe Biden to increase access to abortion pills and help abortion patients in other states following the Friday’s Supreme Court ruling ending the nation’s abortion rights.
They’ve been concerned about the Supreme Court’s decision for weeks, ever since a draft opinion revealed the court intended to overturn the nearly 50-year-old precedent set by Roe against Wade.
Earlier this month, Senate Democrats wrote to Biden, calling on the federal government to take action to strengthen abortion rights. Then on Saturday they wrote to Biden againsaying “the time has come to act boldly”.
The letter followed a speech by the president on Friday, hours after the Supreme Court ruling. Biden said he would do what he could to protect abortion rights, but said his power was limited.
Congress could pass a law legalizing abortion in the United States, but that seems unlikely given the current makeup of Congress. Every Democrat and at least 10 Republicans in the Senate are expected to support the bill because of the Senate filibuster.
The senators, led by Patty Murray, D-Washington and chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, indicated that Biden could take a number of steps. They understand:
- Increase access to medical abortion.
- Helping individuals obtain abortions in other states, such as providing vouchers for travel and childcare.
- Creation of a reproductive health ombudsman position within the Department of Health and Human Services.
- Protect sensitive health and location data, especially when it comes to websites or mobile apps used to track periods or fertility.
- Analyze the use of federal property to increase abortion access and consider moving military personnel and their families to states where abortions remain legal.
- Ensure that Medicaid clients can access a provider of their choice for family planning services.
“These proposals are just starting points in a federal apparatus that affects millions of Americans every day. The entire federal government must be engaged in the administration’s efforts and must act as quickly as possible,” the June 7 letter said.
Some state leaders have said they will try to restrict access to drugs like mifepristone, a drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000 to end a pregnancy for up to 10 weeks. It is commonly prescribed for miscarriages. It is usually prescribed with another pill, misoprostol. The latter would be difficult to restrict as it is also prescribed for stomach ulcers.
The Food and Drug Administration began allowing the shipment of abortion pills late last year. The pills are prescribed by doctors and can be self-administered.
The Biden administration has said it will seek to ensure patients have access to Food and Drug Administration-approved medications and contraception.
The majority of abortions in Oregon under Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette and Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon, which perform half of the state’s abortions, are performed by medication. Oregon providers cannot prescribe out of state, but they can prescribe to patients with an Oregon address.
The Supreme Court’s decision will not affect abortions in Oregon, where they are protected by law.