US Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) today joined 11 of her Senate Democratic colleagues in sending a letter to President Biden urging the Biden administration to take new steps to protect reproductive freedom. She said the request is being made amidst divided control of Congress and increasing efforts to restrict access to abortion.
In addition to Senator Hirono, US Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) also signed onto the letter.
“Each day, women’s lives are threatened because they are denied access to essential health care,” wrote the senators. “As President of the United States, you have a distinct role and responsibility to defend reproductive rights for all Americans and ensure those values are reflected in domestic and foreign policy. We urge you to continue using the resources of the entire federal government to mount a robust response to this crisis.”
After Roe v. Wade was overturned, at least 18 states have eliminated all or some access to abortion, according to the senators, and in September 2022, Senate Republicans introduced legislation to ban abortion nationwide.
The senators applauded President Biden for taking significant steps to protect access to reproductive health care services, including removing unnecessary requirements for medication abortion, inviting states to use Medicaid waivers to cover travel expenses for reproductive care, and increasing access to contraception under the Affordable Care Act.
The senators laid out 11 new steps the Biden administration can take to respond to this growing crisis:
- Clarify the resources and support available to individuals seeking abortion care outside of their home state by issuing guidance detailing Americans’ right to travel under the interstate commerce clause and exploring additional opportunities to finance travel and support for those seeking abortions.
- Continue efforts to protect the privacy and safety of abortion providers and patients by issuing new regulations to strengthen the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act to ensure that data cannot be shared with law enforcement and used to criminalize abortion providers or patients, and to ensure robust enforcement of the law.
- Protect access to medication abortion. This includes any existing authorities, such as enforcement discretion, to allow mifepristone to remain available.
- Continue to evaluate remaining restrictions on medication abortion to determine if any remaining restrictions on the distribution of mifepristone, including patient consent forms, are medically unnecessary.
- Ensure veterans, service members, beneficiaries, and other federal employees can access abortion care, and that Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense health care providers who perform covered abortions can act without retaliation.
- Enforce “Free Choice of Provider” requirements.
- Rescind harmful Executive Orders that the senators say “undermine access to abortion, contraception, and other reproductive care.”
- Ensure enforcement of the women’s health preventive services benefit under the ACA by ensuring individuals with private health insurance have affordable access to the birth control of their choice.
- Ensure undocumented individuals seeking abortions, and those who assist them, can access that care without fear of detention or deportation.
- Ensure those held in federal custody can access abortion care by expanding and enforcing existing protections to safeguard the right to abortion for those who elect to receive these services while being held in federal custody.
- Increase critical funding for domestic and global sexual and reproductive health services in the President’s 2024 Budget.
The full text of the letter is available here.
Original source: https://mauinow.com/2023/02/14/hirono-urges-biden-administration-to-take-new-steps-to-protect-reproductive-freedom/