Eighty-three House Democrats sent a letter to President Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra requesting that they declare a public health emergency over the reversal of Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
“The Supreme Court’s radical and dangerous decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has precipitated a full-scale reproductive health crisis across our nation,” Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, who led the movement of Democrats, wrote in the letter sent Tuesday. “It has also plunged our health system into a state of uncertainty and upheaval that threatens patients’ lives.”
The decision on Roe removed the status of abortion as legal nationally, returning the issue instead to the states. Republican states have since moved to ban abortion after certain points in pregnancy, sometimes banning it entirely, while Democratic-controlled states have moved to codify Roe instead.
“Abortion bans can unnecessarily impede lifesaving medical procedures in the event of pregnancy complications or loss,” the letter argued. “Health experts warn that in the aftermath of this disastrous ruling, the U.S. maternal mortality rate — which is already the highest in the developed world — is certain to rise, with disproportionate impacts on communities of color.”
The Democrats requested intervention from the Biden administration, claiming that “the impacts of this ruling are not limited to health systems in states where abortion is now illegal.” They mentioned “the spillover effects of state laws banning abortion on the health systems in neighboring states that protect the legal right to abortion. Abortion providers have reported that patients in need of abortion are seeking care in other states, causing unprecedented strain on limited resources and delaying care for residents.”
Democrats urged the administration to “issue a national emergency declaration” under the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, the Public Health Service Act and the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act.
“As we have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, a public health emergency declaration can provide significant new authority and flexibility for a federal emergency response,” they wrote. “Relevant activities may include but are not limited to Public Health Services Corps team deployments, Medicaid State Plan Amendment flexibilities to support safe-haven states, and the ability to accelerate access to new medications authorized for abortion.”
Prominent Democrats who signed the bill include Reps. Jerry Nadler of New York, Joaquin Castro of Texas, Katie Porter of California, Al Greene of Texas, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
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