A group of Democratic senators asked President Joe Biden to issue a series of executive orders to protect abortion as the final days of Roe v. Wade’s constitutional protection wanes. In a letter sent Wednesday morning, Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and 22 of their colleagues outlined six actions the president could take today to protect abortion care.
The letter butters up Biden, reminding him of the previous times he has used the full weight of the federal government to protect his priorities, like racial justice and competition in the economy. “Now is the time for equally bold action to protect the right to an abortion,” the letter reads. “The dramatic escalation of attacks on abortion access—spearheaded by right-wing justices, lawmakers, and activists—demands comprehensive and creative strategies from every corner of the federal government.”
The senators propose six ideas: First, increasing access to medication abortion and increasing accurate information about abortion pills. Next, the federal government should provide vouchers for travel, child care, and other practical needs experienced by abortion patients seeking care outside their home state. Senators also suggest creating an ombudsman in the Department of Health and Human Services to educate and analyze data collected about reproductive services like insurance coverage options.
Senators suggest actually enforcing federal requirements for Medicaid recipients to choose the provider of their choice as well as clarifying how websites and apps track health and location data.
The most audacious and needed suggestion is the last one. The senators suggest Biden use federal property and resources to provide abortion care. “The Department of Justice and all relevant agencies could analyze the types of reproductive health services that could be provided on federal property, especially in states where such services are limited by state law or regulation,” the letter reads.
The senators also suggest that the Department of Defense “could assess the feasibility of moving military personnel and their families and any authority to ensure that members and their families can access reproductive health care” like abortion. The Office of Personnel Management, essentially the federal government’s human resources, could make sure federal employees are given paid time off and reimbursed for abortion-related expenses. The letter also suggests all federal agencies that are responsible for people (like migrant border facilities or prisons) review regulations that limit abortion while instituting new rules to expand access.
“The entirety of the federal government must be engaged in the Administration’s efforts and must act as swiftly as possible. As extremist judges and Republican politicians intensify their efforts to strip Americans of their basic reproductive freedoms, you can demonstrate to the country and women everywhere that you will do everything in your power to fight back,” the letter reads.
It’s mind-boggling that Biden and his administration aren’t taking executive action to protect abortion. Polling powerhouse Gallup has been asking the American public about its views on abortion for decades. Last week, Gallup announced that 55 percent of people identify as pro-choice, the highest finding since 1995. Now, a majority of Americans say abortion is morally acceptable for the first time since it started asking about the morality of abortion in 2001. Comparatively, only 38 percent said they view abortion as morally wrong.
And a world without abortion is taking hold in the states. Last month, Oklahoma passed a total abortion ban from “fertilization,” making it the first state to successfully do so after Roe guaranteed the constitutional right to abortion 49 years ago. The Sooner State’s bans are only a final nail of extreme anti-abortion legislation passed across the country in the last year. In Texas, S.B. 8 outlawed all abortions after six weeks along with a then-novel legal approach to enforce the ban by having citizens sue potential offenders.
“We urge you to immediately issue an executive order instructing the leaders of every federal agency to submit their plans to protect the right to an abortion within 30 days,” the letter concludes. “Americans across the country are at risk of losing their fundamental rights, including their constitutional right to abortion protected for generations. They deserve no less than a whole-of-government response.”