‘Good. Now Declare It,’ Says Pressley as Biden Mulls Health Emergency for Abortion Rights

Yves here. I’m not sure that the Biden Administration declaring a public health care emergency to protect abortion “access” would survive a court challenge, since it sounds tantamount to declaring pregnancy to be a “health emergency”. However, the latest polls show Biden’s popularity to have dropped even further, to 33%. Democratic party inaction over the Supreme Court abortion slapdown, despite early warning that it was likely, suggests that insiders assumed it would be a plus for the midterms. While abortion rights are a hot button for fundraising, many actual voters, as opposed to moneybags, are rightfully upset by the Democrats expecting to be rewarded for decades of dropping the ball. Both some readers here as well as Twitterati said they were changing their party registration away from Democrat after the ruling.

So if focus group types ascertain that the Democrats’ abortion non-strategy is deservedly failing with voters, Biden may try the health emergency gambit, say mid-late September, so as to be perceived to be Doing Something and yet hopefully having it not get marked up by the courts before the midterms.

By Jake Johnson, a staff writer at Common Dreams. Originally published at Common Dreams

President Joe Biden confirmed Sunday that his administration is considering declaring a public health emergency to help protect abortion access as Republican-led states—unleashed by the U.S. Supreme Court—move swiftly to ban the procedure outright.

Speaking to reporters, Biden said a public health emergency declaration is a step he’s asked “the medical people in the administration to look at.” Specifically, the president said he requested guidance on whether he has “the authority to do that and what impact that would have.”

“Good,” responded Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), one of nearly two dozen Democratic lawmakers calling on the president to take the step, which proponents say would free up key federal resources and authorities needed for an all-of-government response to the right-wing assault on abortion care.

“Now declare it,” Pressley added.

Biden’s remarks came on the heels of Bloomberg reporting from just days earlier indicating that the administration had considered and “set aside” the idea of declaring a public health emergency over the erosion of abortion rights, concluding that “the impact wouldn’t justify an inevitable legal battle.”

That calculation angered abortion rights advocates who argue the Biden administration should be doing everything in its power to shield abortion access as state-level GOP lawmakers push ahead with total abortion bans, no longer constrained by the constitutional protections afforded under the newly struck-down Roe v. Wade decision.

“The president is actively choosing inaction,” tweeted Renee Bracey Sherman, executive director of We Testify, a group that represents people who have had abortions. “This is the moment to be bold and innovative. People need to see that they’re doing something, not just rejecting every idea that’s put in front of them.”

On Friday, Biden signed an executive order directing federal health agencies to take steps to shore up access to medication abortion and emergency contraception in states where Republican lawmakers are activating draconian abortion bans, including dormant laws dating back to the 1800s.

While progressive lawmakers and rights organizations welcomed the order as a positive first step, they urged the administration to go further as the White House resists more sweeping action and dismisses those demanding it as fringe activists.

But demands for a public health emergency declaration are hardly emanating solely from outside the mainstream of the Democratic Party.

In an op-ed for The New York Times a day after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) implored Biden to “declare a public health emergency to protect abortion access for all Americans, unlocking critical resources and authority that states and the federal government can use to meet the surge in demand for reproductive health services.”

“The danger is real,” the senators wrote, “and Democrats must meet it with the urgency it deserves.”

Hours before the Supreme Court’s decision, a group of Black Democratic congresswomen led by Pressley sent a lettercalling on the White House to “use any and all executive authorities to address the public health crisis our nation will face if Roe v. Wade is dismantled.”

“Declaring a public health emergency and national emergency will allow your administration to utilize additional flexibilities and deploy resources where necessary,” the letter reads. “In this unprecedented moment, we must act urgently as if lives depend on it because they do.”

Pressley doubled down on that call Sunday.

“This is a public health emergency,” she wrote on Twitter. “Declare it.”

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  1. Dan

    The problem with this line of thinking is that someday, a Republican will be in power. A Republican president has the same powers as a Democrat president. With a new precedent set, the next Republican president can and will also sign executive orders and use the same public health emergency to declare the opposite of what is described here. Be careful what you wish for.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Who knows? They might get rid of Roe. “Be careful what you wish for” would be more relevant if it wasn’t the excuse for Team Blue inaction for 50 years.

    2. Old Jake

      That line of reasoning leads to total inaction. Just think, if Congress did pass legislation guaranteeing access to abortion services everywhere in the US, all it would take to reverse them is a (likely Republican) Congress repealing those laws and passing new legislation making abortion completely illegal.

      Sitting on our hands is the sure way to failure.

      1. hk

        This sort of crazy antics at the last minute happen precisely because Democrats hadn’t been doing anything when they could and sat on their hands all the time. Now that the only recourse is doing something fishy, they say that they “have to” do it because they have no other way (b/c they didn’t do anything before). Not exactly a convincing argument.

    3. Darthbobber

      Every time the Democrats pretend to find this line of reasoning persuasive they wind up being shocked- shocked that the Republicans in power proceed to do without the precedent what it was feared that they would do with it.

    4. IM Doc

      All those years ago when I was taking all the Roman History courses, a professor made a very keen comparison.

      Basically, it was that the fall of the Roman Republic took decades to be accomplished. The issues were obviously not our own in our time, but what happened was that the leaders on all sides during the long fall learned how to “game” the system to their advantage. That is exactly how I view executive orders as they are done today. It is exactly how I view a very overactive Supreme Court. There are other examples.

      His point was that each side when they had power just continued to game the system and play one-up-manship with their rivals. Ending in a few decades with no one able to recognize what was left of the old order.

      He warned us at the time – back in the 80s – that he felt it very likely this would also be a manifestation of the fall of the US Republic. And guess what, here we are………

  2. Tom Stone

    The Democrats DO NOT want to do
    something effective to make Abortions legal and available Nationwide.
    And they REALLY do not want to have to go on record with a vote on the abortion issue.
    Under enough pressure the Dems might bring the issue to a voice vote,where it would fail.
    But go on the the record with your vote?
    Because “It’s all about the Benjamins” more Women will suffer and more Women will die.
    This is a performative obscenity that makes a Tijuana donkey show look almost noble.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      They might on abortion in a symbolic faction, especially in a hands off way, but what is next? College debt? Climate? Actual gun control?

  3. KommieKat

    I think we have to consider the theory that just below the surface, Biden is fundamentally anti-abortion. This would be consistent with his Catholic faith.

    Maybe he’s just doing the absolute minimum in speeches to string democratic voters along through the midterms. Then, even if a miracle happens and the Dems pick up some seats in the Senate, there will still be some allegedly insurmountable obstacle to a federal abortion rights law.

    1. Dr. John Carpenter

      I don’t think it’s below the surface. He has a history of bragging about his anti-abortion bona fides. It’s just that he’s opportunistic enough to know when to keep it quiet.

  4. poopinator

    I remember a far more severe “health emergency” from not too long ago that didn’t seem to interest Senile Joe all that much. I guess its time proximity to midterms wasn’t optimal.

  5. Pat

    Warren, again. Lordy she spreads as much manure as Biden’s team does.
    She has to know this will get slaughtered in the courts. One thing for Trump, he and McConnell did make sure they are stacked. Too bad the Democrats never learned obstruction. Or more likely the nominees passed the corporate toaday test and that was all that mattered. (And in this case blocking the hail Mary is probably the correct decision.)

    They never thought the long con would end…

  6. Socal Rhino

    If Democratic Party interests were at stake, they might try a strategy of forcing votes followed by primarying those who vote the wrong way. The current approach of saying “we can’t have a vote until we have the votes to win” is undemocratic in my opinion as it prevents voters from holding anyone accountable.

    Maybe voters could let the party know that no vote = a vote of “no.” Go on record with a vote of “Yes” or go home.

    1. Carolinian

      If Democratic accountability is the issue then we would demand primaries on all of them, Dem and Repub.

      1. socal rhino

        Agree, but I was approaching this from the perspective of a political party, one genuinely motivated by a core interest, contrasting that with the behavior we see.

  7. LAS

    States can’t enforce anti-abortion laws without dismantling reproductive health privacy, maternal health, and freedom to travel across state lines. Anti-abortion laws can only be enforced by violating civil rights of all women as a class and all maternal health providers. Without civil rights, of course such a class of people will have disparate worse health than those with civil rights.
    Recently racism was declared a public health emergency. That has the appearance of caring about the matter while not really doing anything. It’s a low risk, Dr. Feelgood, political talking point. Actually enforcing peoples’ civil rights straight on is what’s needed.

  8. polar donkey

    Global financial crisis in 2008, Democrats moved with lightning speed to bailout banks. COVID, Democrats moved with lightning speed to bailout big business. Russia invasion of Ukraine, Democrats have repeatedly moved with lightning speed to fund the MIC. I’ve seen enough lightning speed and inaction by Democrats to know inaction is their choice. Maybe Democratic voters will pick inaction on election day.

  9. ChrisRUEcon

    > So if focus group types ascertain that the Democrats’ abortion non-strategy is deservedly failing with voters, Biden may try the health emergency gambit, say mid-late September, so as to be perceived to be Doing Something and yet hopefully having it not get marked up by the courts before the midterms.

    [Emphasis mine]

    Dear Yves, I do not think perceptions are gonna cut it any more. This came across the wire from CommonDreams around 5pm EDT:

    “Don’t Run Joe” Campaign Will Oppose Renomination of Biden


    “We’re making this announcement today because the current debate over whether Biden should run again focuses too narrowly on his age and the latest polls,” [Jeff[ Cohen [co-founder of RootsAction] said. “It’s his performance — his inability to fight for working people and stand up against Republican and corporate obstruction — that has us worried about 2024.”

    There are going to be people who say that this effort is nothing but those pesky “Bernie Bros” at it again, but the sentiment can be found among those who were not among the Brothers & Sisters of Bernard in 2020 and worked to get Biden elected. People with #BidenHarris2020 bumper stickers are shaking their heads in disbelief and disappointment. He’s lost Debra Messing, the arch nemesis of Susan Sarandon. Unless he forgives all student debt and sends a $2K stimmy check before November, he’s got nothing.

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