Biden, Democratic governors huddle over abortion ruling response
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul urged President Joe Biden to consider providing abortions to the public on federal property in states that ban the procedure — a proposal the White House has dismissed as untenable.
“We’d ask that you’d consider your ability to use federal facilities,” Hochul told Biden on Friday during a White House brainstorming session with Democratic governors aimed at identifying options for protecting women’s access to abortion.
A week after the Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, Biden is under mounting pressure to respond more forcefully. Nearly two dozen Democratic senators wrote Biden last weekend asking him to explore the “types of reproductive health services that could be provided on federal property.”
But a White House official said the proposal, while well intentioned, risked putting women and providers in legal jeopardy in state courts. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity. Biden didn’t directly respond to Hochul’s idea during the public portion of Friday’s session.
Hochul cited veterans’ hospitals, military bases, “and other places where the federal government controls the jurisdiction” in states that “are hostile to women’s rights” as potential venues where the Biden administration should step in.
The New York governor who convened an extraordinary session of the state’s legislature in Albany on Friday to consider enshrining abortion access in the state’s constitution, said it was “a frightening time for women all across our nation.”
Hochul said women had come up to her at subway stations, farmers’ markets and elsewhere to express their concern following the ruling and that she she will do all in her power to make sure New York is a safe haven for women who live in states where abortion is banned or restricted.
“Literally young women who never even had to think about this right are coming up and putting their arms around my neck and sobbing,” she said.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she too wanted the federal government to allow abortions on federal lands, citing Indian Health Service Clinics as one possible venue.
Lujan Grisham has signed an executive order aimed at maintaining abortion access and protecting providers from attempts by other states to pursue civil or criminal charges. Last year, New Mexico repealed a 1969 law that would have criminalzed abortion if Roe v. Wade was overturned.
“We are in fact that brick wall against this horrific Supreme Court decision,” Lujan Grisham said Friday.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said his state, because of its location in the Southeast, is already seeing an influx of women seeking abortion services.
“Your zip code should not determine your rights,” said Cooper, who pledged to veto any effort by the state’s Republican legislature to curtail abortion access.
At least 22 states have fully outlawed or significantly restricted access to abortion, with others likely to move quickly in that direction after the court’s ruling.
The Democratic Party is hoping outrage against the court’s decision, evident in nationwide protests, will prompt voters to back candidates who support abortion rights in the November midterms. But there’s also the risk that women and liberal voters will be discouraged from turning out if they deem Biden’s response weak.
Biden has repeatedly stressed there’s little his administration can do unless more lawmakers who support abortion rights are elected to Congress.
Incremental steps the administration has taken in response to the ruling include new guidance the Department of Health and Human Services issued Wednesday telling health care providers they are not required to — and often legally prohibited from — disclosing private health care information related to abortion and other sexual and reproductive health care, including to law enforcement.
“We’re going to do everything within the power of the federal government to make sure that any attempt to obstruct anything from travel to access to medicine does not occur,” Biden said Friday.
Separately, the White House is preparing a letter from Biden asking the Federal Trade Commission to protect women’s privacy when they seek information about or disclose personal data related to reproductive health care.
On Thursday, Biden said he would support adding exceptions to the Senate’s filibuster rule to pass legislation codifying abortion access and privacy rights.
But two key Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, remain opposed to eliminating or carving out an exception to the Senate’s filibuster rule, which allows Republicans to block most legislation they oppose with half the votes of the 100-seat chamber. Their opposition effectively eliminates that option in the current Senate.
“Right now we don’t have the votes to change the filibuster,” Biden acknowledged Friday, urging the election of at least two more senators in November who support abortion rights.