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Biden HHS Considers Health ‘Emergency’ Over Abortion

The Biden administration would be abusing its power if it declared an abortion public health emergency.
Grant Atkinson
Written by
The Biden administration would be abusing its power if it declared an abortion public health emergency

When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, many Americans rightly celebrated how many lives would be saved. Meanwhile, abortion activists and Democratic lawmakers almost immediately began asking the Biden administration to abuse its power to fight the Court’s decision.

Less than a week after the Supreme Court issued its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, The Washington Post published an op-ed by abortion activist Nancy Northup calling on President Biden to declare abortion a public health emergency.

Northup is the president of the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights, the legal organization that represented the Mississippi abortion clinic in Dobbs. She relied on multiple false claims in her article, and many of them were parroted in a July letter by 18 Democratic senators urging the Biden administration to declare an emergency.

Since abortion activists and Democratic lawmakers are intent on sowing lies to push for a public health emergency over abortion, it is important to understand—and be equipped to refute—their false claims.


Myth #1: Women with ectopic pregnancies won’t receive care

Even though almost all abortions in the U.S. are elective, activists know they cannot rely on this type of abortion to justify a public-health emergency. Instead, they have tried to characterize treatment for ectopic pregnancies and other life-threatening conditions as abortion.

The lawmakers’ letter claimed that doctors have been “forced to withhold lifesaving care from women facing miscarriages, infection, and sepsis in light of draconian civil and criminal penalties imposed by extremist governors and state legislatures.” Northup wrote that doctors might delay treatment for life-threatening conditions.

The truth is that doctors in every state do treat ectopic pregnancies and other life-threatening conditions. All states with restrictions on abortion have exceptions for medical emergencies, which includes ectopic pregnancy.

Abortion activists are using ectopic pregnancies to advocate elective abortions, but these are two different things. The Biden administration has already tried to force emergency room doctors to perform elective abortions using the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, and Alliance Defending Freedom is challenging this attempt in court.

Declaring reduced access to abortion-on-demand a public health emergency would not change how doctors respond to ectopic pregnancies or other life-threatening conditions; it would simply be another attempt to expand elective abortion access across the country.


Myth #2: The Biden administration can legally declare abortion a public health emergency

In Dobbs, the Supreme Court correctly ruled that a right to abortion does not exist in the Constitution, but abortion activists and Democratic lawmakers have refused to accept this fact.

After the ruling, President Biden said he wanted to protect “a woman’s right in states where they will face the consequences of today’s decision,” and Northup suggested he declare a public health emergency. While the Biden administration does have the authority to declare a public health emergency generally, doing so for abortion far exceeds Congress’ grant of authority.

Congress specified that public health emergencies can be declared for things like “significant outbreaks of infectious diseases or bioterrorist attacks,” and historically they have been declared for short time periods and narrow geographic areas, like in the swath of a hurricane. If the Biden administration declared a public health emergency for abortion, it would be abusing federal power to push a political agenda.

Abortion advocates seem to think that if abortion access is declared a public health emergency it will override pro-life state laws. But a fake public health emergency declaration cannot take away the people’s right under Dobbs to protect unborn life. Mary Ziegler, an abortion expert and professor of law at the University of California, Davis, even admitted that a declaration from Biden would most likely be struck down in federal court.


Myth #3: Chemical abortion drugs are safe

In their letter, Democratic lawmakers said one purpose of declaring a public health emergency over abortion would be to “protect patient access to medication abortion.” Expanding on that idea, Northup wrote that a declaration was needed to “shield providers, pharmacists, patients and others from liability for their involvement in providing medication abortion in hostile states.”

What they’re referring to is dangerous chemical abortion drugs.

When the FDA approved those drugs over 20 years ago, it did so recklessly without requiring the necessary studies or requiring basic protections for women who take these dangerous drugs—disregarding both science and the law. The drugs have caused severe bleeding and life-threatening infections, and the FDA has never reversed course or fixed its mistakes. In fact, the agency has since eliminated the few safeguards that were still in place to protect women and girls.

That’s why ADF has filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against the FDA.

If the Biden administration attempts to absolve providers from responsibility, it is not only violating the will of voters by expanding abortion access in states that want to prohibit it, but also putting women and girls at risk by pushing unsafe abortion drugs without consequences.

These drugs are especially dangerous to women when administered without a preparatory ultrasound to determine that no ectopic pregnancy exists. So in a sad irony, when abortion activists push these chemical abortion drugs, they are proving they don’t care about women with ectopic pregnancies.

The same people advocating an abortion public health emergency are causing real emergencies for women by cheering the FDA for allowing chemical abortions drugs to be distributed in pharmacies or by mail.


What to watch for

Given the legal challenges to declaring a public health emergency over abortion, the Biden administration is unlikely to take this route. But the fact that abortion activists and Democratic lawmakers are pushing for it shows that they will not stop in their pursuit to promote abortion nationwide.

Even after the Supreme Court’s monumental decision, we have more work to do to protect the unborn.

Grant Atkinson serves as Jr. Digital Writer at Alliance Defending Freedom
Grant Atkinson
Junior Digital Writer
Grant serves as a Junior Digital Writer at Alliance Defending Freedom.