Secretary Xavier Becerra’s remarks during the press conference in response to President Biden’s directive following the overthrow of Roe v. wade
As prepared for delivery
On Friday, June 24, five Americans decided to use the vast power given to them by our democracy and our Constitution to unduly endanger the lives and health of millions of their fellow Americans. They chose to unreasonably limit Americans’ established freedom and autonomy to control their own bodies — decisions usually made in consultation with their doctor, not a politician. And they chose to unknowingly remove basic health care protections that every American of childbearing age has known their entire lives.
Friday’s Supreme Court decision was despicable, but it was also predictable. HHS has been preparing for this for some time. That’s why, earlier this year, we launched our HHS Reproductive Access Task Force to plan all actions necessary to protect women’s access to reproductive health care.
There is no magic formula. But if there’s anything we can do, we’ll find it and do it at HHS. Indeed, that is the instruction I received from the President of the United States.
Last Friday, President Biden announced the steps he is taking to ensure that medical abortion is available whenever possible and that women can travel safely from states where abortion is banned to states where abortion is legal. Here is how HHS will handle these issues:
- First, HHS will take steps to increase access to medical abortion.
- Federal law requires our programs to provide medical abortion in limited circumstances, including the life of the mother, rape, or incest.
- Now more than ever, it is imperative that all federally supported programs and services comply with and deliver under the law.
- Second, I lead the Office of Civil Rights within HHS to ensure patient confidentiality and non-discrimination for patients seeking reproductive health care, as well as providers who provide reproductive health care.
- Third, I direct the Ministry to review its authority under the Emergency Medical Treatment Act (EMTALA) to ensure that the clinical judgment of doctors and hospitals is upheld in the treatment of pregnant patients, including including those experiencing pregnancy loss or complications, and reaffirms that abortion care may be appropriate to stabilize patients.
- Fourth, I direct all agencies in my department to work to ensure that all providers—from physicians to pharmacists—and clinics have appropriate training and resources to handle family planning needs, including administration. patient referrals for care and helping patients navigate this new reality.
- Fifth, I direct the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to take all legally available steps to protect family planning care, including emergency contraceptives and long-acting reversible contraceptives, such as the IUDs. Health care is a matter for patients and their providers, not politicians. As part of these efforts, we will clarify that family planning providers can participate in the Medicaid program. These clinics offer safe care and have extensive expertise in providing reproductive health care.
Now let me tell you a bit more about why I think medical abortion is so important.
- Medical abortion has been approved by the FDA for years and is safe for patients.
- It’s the gold standard of care when a pregnant woman miscarries, which is all too real for many expectant mothers across the country.
- The decision of the Supreme Court will lead to a worsening of the state of health and the death of some patients. Working to increase access to this medicine is a national imperative and in the public interest.
- We will continue to support the FDA and its rigorous scientific review of these safe and effective drugs.
- We will also work with the Attorney General and the Department of Justice as they ensure states do not ban medical abortion based on disagreement with FDA expert judgment on medical abortion. safety and efficacy of the drug.
- And we will provide guidance to providers to ensure they receive accurate and solid information about medical abortion.
The HHS Reproductive Access Task Force will report back to me on other effective ways to ensure appropriate information about, access to, and coverage of sexual and reproductive health care – as well as coordination with d other federal agencies.
I was at a family planning clinic in St. Louis, Missouri on Friday morning when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. I saw in real time the impact of this unacceptable decision. The clinic director had to start turning away patients almost immediately when the state ban went into effect. This clinic has stopped providing safe and legal abortion care. People in the room were visibly shaken, there were tears and an unshakable sense of sadness.
After my visit to the clinic in St. Louis, I crossed the state line to another clinic in Fairview Heights, Illinois – a state that, unlike Missouri, was still offering health care. legal abortions. There, I visited a site that helps patients get care by providing assistance — from helping patients find appointments to paying for travel — and abortion care. It was shocking that in the United States of America a short drive could make such a serious and drastic difference in health care outcomes. I have seen restrictions that leave women and families on an unequal footing and widen disparities in maternal health.
The impact was visible and real.
This is a critical moment in history. How we respond will indicate how we view the rights, dignity and well-being of women everywhere. This is a time of crisis in health care. We will leave no stone unturned. All options are on the table. We will do everything within the legal limits of the law to reach patients and healthcare providers.
I know we are all tired and our hearts are broken by this loss of rights and dignity. But now is the time for us to carry on for the many people across the country who live in states where abortion is banned, who lack voices that represent them.
I am with you and I have your back.