Biden must act now to protect abortion rights – Herald Democrat

New York Times

Barely two weeks have passed since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and already chaos reigns. Several states are set to almost completely ban abortion, proponents of abortion rights are challenging these bans in court, and in some cases judges have been asked to issue injunctions that could, for a time, prevent the entry into force of the bans.

Doctors across the country, including in places where abortion is legal, are confused about what is and is not allowed, even when a patient’s life may be at stake. Patients are equally confused and panicked , and in some cases, their health is endangered.

President Biden, responding to harsh criticism from his own party that his administration has not done enough to uphold abortion rights, signed an executive order on Friday to help protect access to reproductive health care. In his remarks, Mr. Biden argued for Americans to elect a Congress that would vote to codify the rights once guaranteed by Roe v. Wade. He is right that it will be a long political fight to restore the constitutional right that the Supreme Court took away with its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

At the same time, the Biden administration has an immediate duty to protect public health and the rights that Americans still have. The federal government can take several steps now, with laws already in effect, to strengthen abortion services in states where they are legal, support doctors facing legal and logistical dilemmas, and help women who may need cross state lines or secure abortion pills online. The executive order signed on Friday does little more than direct the secretary of health and human services to research ways to better enforce those existing laws and report back.

The need for action is clear, after years of research on how access to abortion affects women’s health. A recent study estimated that denying abortions in the United States would increase deaths of pregnant women by more than 20% overall, and more than 30% for black women – and that’s not counting deaths that may result from unsafe abortions. . While not all abortions will be denied in the new landscape, and how abortion pills are regulated could play an important role, the public health consequences of Roe’s reversal could be severe.

The most urgent action the federal government must take is to ensure access to medical abortion, the most common method of abortion, according to preliminary data from the Guttmacher Institute. In a strong public statement in support of abortion rights, Attorney General Merrick Garland underscored his commitment to “work with other branches of the federal government that seek to use their legitimate powers to protect and preserve access to care.” of procreation”. He noted, in particular, the Food and Drug Administration’s authority over abortive drugs. States cannot ban these drugs “based on disagreement with the expert judgment of the FDA,” he said.

The FDA should follow the Attorney General’s lead and say, unequivocally, that the agency’s approval and regulatory decisions regarding prescription drugs, including abortion pills, supersede any regulations or statutes at the US level. ‘State. This argument will almost certainly be challenged in court, but there is precedent to back it up. When Massachusetts tried in 2014 to ban Zohydro, an FDA-approved prescription pain reliever, the decision was overturned by a federal district court based on the FDA’s preventative powers.

The FDA’s pre-emptive authority should also be recognized by states that support abortion rights. At least 30 states, including some Democrats, have chosen to regulate abortion pills more tightly than the FDA does. Some require a doctor to dispense the pills, even though the FDA allows other qualified medical professionals to do so. Others require in-person appointments, even though the FDA allows telehealth consultations. The FDA should insist that these restrictions be removed and that the guidelines conform to federal guidelines.

The agency should also take immediate steps to ease restraints on medical abortion that experts have long deemed unnecessary. For example, the two-drug cocktail commonly used for medical abortion is approved for up to 10 weeks of pregnancy in the United States, but the World Health Organization has deemed it safe for up to 12 weeks. And as noted by The Atlantic, the pills were used safely even later.

Similarly, the FDA requires pharmacies to obtain certification to dispense either of the two pills, a policy that is not used in other countries and prevents access. To that end, federal officials should also support drugmaker GenBioPro in its Mississippi lawsuit challenging other restrictions; FDA public support would help, as would Justice Department involvement in the case.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should also make clear, publicly, that all hospitals receiving federal Medicare and Medicaid funds (that is, almost all hospitals and clinics) are required to provide all drugs approved by the FDA and that emergency services are bound by the Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which requires medical professionals to provide necessary care in the event of a medical emergency.

Medicaid and health and human services should make it clear – again, unequivocally – that the emergency treatment law applies to abortion when a pregnancy is life threatening and they will apply it. (The Hyde Amendment, a legal provision that prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion, also contains a rape, incest, and medical emergency provision that still applies to government-funded health centers. federal.) Doctors faced with an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage — which can be life-threatening if fetal tissue stays in the body too long — might be less afraid to act if they were reminded that inaction is still a crime and if they knew the federal government would support them.

Other federal agencies also have a role to play. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can aggressively monitor and publicize illnesses and deaths in states where abortion is no longer available. As America’s premier public health agency, the CDC has an obligation not only to continue to study the harm to public health caused by limits on access to abortion, but also to speak publicly about its intention to do so. TO DO. The Federal Trade Commission can specify that anyone who tries to sell fake abortion drugs, online or elsewhere, will be prosecuted.

It is true, as administration officials have said, that there are no easy solutions to the fight for abortion rights in which Americans are currently engaged; even among those who favor reproductive rights, there is little consensus on the best solution. It is also true that any action taken by the administration can lead to litigation. But given the serious threat to public health, not acting is not an option.

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