The Biden administration is evaluating the declaration of a "national emergency" on abortion that would expand access to the procedure nationwide, even in states where it currently faces severe restrictions, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services said this week.
Asked by Axios about a potential declaration, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said Monday there has not been a "full assessment" of a declaration and that the topic is still in an "evaluation" stage.
"There are certain criteria that you look for to be able to declare a public health emergency," Becerra said. "That's typically done by scientists and those that are professionals in those fields who will tell us whether we are in a state of emergency, and based on that, I have the ability to make a declaration."
More than 80 members of Congress wrote Biden last year urging him to issue a national emergency declaration under the so-called "Stafford Act" and a Public Health Emergency declaration on abortion access under the Public Health Service Act and the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act. The letter was sent to Biden in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.
"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," the 2022 letter said. "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. We respectfully urge you to quickly issue a National Emergency and Public Health Emergency declaration and use your authority under the PREP Act to protect abortion access."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Rawf8
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.