President Joe Biden said Sunday that he is considering declaring a public health emergency to free up federal resources to promote abortion access even though the White House has said that doesn’t seem like “a great option.”
He also offered a message to people angered by last month’s Supreme Court ruling that ended a constitutional right to abortion and who have been demonstrating across the country: “Keep protesting. Keep making your point. It’s of vital importance”.
The president, speaking to reporters during a stop on a bike ride near his family’s Delaware beach house, said he does not have the power to bind more than a dozen states with strict restrictions or outright bans on abortion to allow the procedure.
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“I do not have the authority to say that we are going to reinstate Roe v. Wade as the law of the land,” he said, referring to the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established the national right to abortion. Biden said that Congress would have to codify that right and for that to have a better chance in the future, voters would have to elect more lawmakers who support abortion access.
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Biden said his administration is trying to do “a lot of things to accommodate women’s rights” after the ruling, including possibly declaring a public health emergency to free up federal resources. Such a move has been pushed by advocates, but White House officials have questioned both its legality and effectiveness, noting that it would almost certainly face legal challenges.
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The president said he has asked officials “to see if I have the authority to do that and what impact it would have.”
On Friday, Jen Klein, director of the White House Gender Policy Council, said that “didn’t seem like a great option.”
“When we looked at the public health emergency, we learned a couple of things: One is that it doesn’t release a lot of resources,” he told reporters. “That’s what’s in the public health emergency fund, and there’s very little money, tens of thousands of dollars. So it didn’t seem like a great option. And it doesn’t release a significant amount of legal authority either. And that’s why we haven’t taken that action yet.”
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