Biden considers declaring public health emergency to increase abortion access

Joe Biden
(Image credit: Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Biden said Sunday he might declare a public health emergency to allow federal resources to be used to increase abortion access in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe v. Wade (1973) and returning the issue of abortion to the states.

The White House has said it doesn't see an emergency declaration as "a great option," but Biden said it was important for abortion-rights advocates to do whatever they can to counter the decision as red states impose new abortion bans or tighten restrictions.

"Keep protesting. Keep making your point," Biden said near his family's Delaware beach house. He also said that although he lacked the power to reinstate Roe, the administration is doing a "lot of things to accommodate the rights of women."

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Federal law gives the Secretary of Health and Human Services the power to declare public health emergencies and draw money from the mostly depleted Public Health Emergency Fund in order to "take such action as may be appropriate ... including making grants, providing awards for expenses, and entering into contracts and conducting and supporting investigations into the cause, treatment, or prevention of a disease or disorder" and to "facilitate and accelerate ... advanced research and development of security countermeasures."

Whether abortion restrictions constitute a legitimate public health emergency under federal law is legally dubious, and any declaration by the Biden administration is likely to be challenged in court, The Associated Press reports.

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