Here's what Biden can do to help Americans retain abortion access now that Roe v. Wade is overturned, advocates say

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  • The Supreme Court ended the federal right to an abortion by overturning Roe v. Wade last week.

  • President Joe Biden condemned the decision, calling on Congress to act and citizens to vote.

  • Here are the measures abortion advocates have called on Biden to implement since Roe was overturned.

As the nation reels from the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, abortion advocates across the political spectrum have called for sweeping measures from President Joe Biden.

On Friday, Biden said the Court's decision would "literally take America back 150 years" and that his administration will aggressively defend Americans' rights to receive abortion pills through the mail or to travel across state lines to receive care.

The president called on Congress to act, despite Democrats' failures to codify abortion rights into federal law. He also called on Americans to vote in the midterms in November.

"Let me be very clear and unambiguous: The only way we can secure a women's right to choose, the balance that existed, is for Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade as federal law," he said. "No executive action from the president can do that."

While Biden has said his "administration will use all of its appropriate lawful powers" to help Americans retain access to abortion,  lawmakers and advocates have called on the president to implement the following measures since Roe was overturned.

Expand the Supreme Court

Activists For Expanding The Supreme Court Rally
Activists For Expanding The Supreme Court Rally Outside the Supreme Court on June 22, 2022 in Washington, DC.Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Demand Justice

Democrats and abortion-rights activists have demanded Biden administration to expand the Supreme Court and add justices to balance the conservative majority. Over 50 House Democrats co-signed a 2021 bill to expand the Court to 13 justices.

While the number of justices on the Supreme Court has been nine since 1869, it historically ranged between five and 10 justices. There is no limit to number of justices on the high court in the Constitution,and Congress has the power to decide its size.

The last major attempt to expand the court, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, failed in Congress.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Saturday that President Joe Biden "does not agree with" expanding the Supreme Court.

"I was asked this question yesterday, and I've been asked it before," she said. "That is something that the President does not agree with. That is not something that he wants to do," Jean-Pierre said during a press briefing.

Declare a 'public health and national emergency'

Abortion protests
Activists march along Constitution Avenue to the US Supreme Court on May 14, 2022.Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Tina Smith of Minnesota called on Biden to  "declare a public health emergency" after the Supreme Court ruling.

"We urge the president 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, and Democrats must meet it with the urgency it deserves," Warren and Smith wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus authored a letter to Biden ahead of the Court's final decision, calling on the president "to use every tool at your disposal to protect fundamental reproductive rights and abortion access."

"The effects of this decision on the lives and health of Black women and pregnant people will be devastating and require an urgent and whole-of-government response," said the letter signed by Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Cori Bush, Barbara Lee, and nearly two dozen others.

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

Establish abortion clinics on federal land

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., joins abortion-rights activists as they demonstrate following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joins abortion-rights activists as they demonstrate following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in Washington on June 24, 2022.Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Friday demanded Biden create abortion clinics on federal lands while speaking at a protest in New York.

"There are also actions at President Biden's disposal that he can mobilize," Ocasio-Cortez said. "I'll start with the babiest of the babiest of the baby steps: Open abortion clinics on federal lands in red states right now. Right now."

However, Vice President Kamala Harris said that putting abortion clinics on federal lands is "not right now what we are discussing" in the administration.

The proposition would face logistical hurdles like the longstanding Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funds from directly funding abortion services through programs like Medicaid and Title X. A White House official told Insider that the proposal could be a risk to "women and providers who are not federal employees could be potentially be prosecuted."

Offer federal support or grants for those traveling out of state for abortion care

Abortion access is a confusing patchwork across the US, with each state in charge of its own rules.

In total, eight states have banned abortion since the Supreme Court ruling on June 24, but courts have temporarily blocked abortion bans in Louisiana and Utah, allowing patients to receive care in the meantime.

Experts have pointed out that many Americans will be forced to travel across state lines to access abortions. States like Illinois — which share borders with states that immediately implemented bans on abortion after the Supreme Court ruling — are bracing for an influx of people to cross their state lines.

Biden said he intends to fight to protect an individual's right to travel across state lines to get abortion care, but he hasn't gone as far as offering federal support to people who have to travel.

"If any state or local official, high or low, tries to interfere with a woman's exercising her basic right to travel, I will do everything in my power to fight that deeply un-American attack," Biden said last Friday in his address following the ruling.

Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of the non-profit Public Citizen, told Insider that the Biden administration could establish grants for people who need to travel to get abortion care.

"State by state there will be different requirements and limitations, so the cost of traveling to a place where you can get this care is part of the issue," Gilbert told Insider. "So figuring out ways to assist, providing grants or other mechanisms for funding to reach women who need to travel would be a thing for them to consider."

Any actions the administration takes would again have to be in compliance with the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion care.

Provide easier access to abortion medication

Boxes of the drug mifepristone line a shelf at the West Alabama Women's Center in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Wednesday, March 16, 2022.
Boxes of the drug mifepristone line a shelf at the West Alabama Women's Center in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Wednesday, March 16, 2022.Allen G. Breed, File/AP

Gilbert added that the Biden administration could also loosen restrictions on prescribing the abortion pill.

In December, the US Food and Drug Administration lifted a measure that required patients to visit a clinic or doctor in person in order to obtain mifepristone, one of the drugs used in a medical abortion, The New York Times reported.

"The federal government could help make abortion medication easier to access, the abortion pill," Gilbert said. "They've already made it easier for women to get abortion pills by mail or prescribed through telemedicine, but they can also change the guidelines to allow any medical provider to write a prescription for the medication and could expand where you can get it, to which pharmacies it could be gotten at. So that's a pretty straightforward thing that would be wonderful to see."

Help people understand abortion laws state by state as well as their right

Gilbert said one of the biggest ways the Biden administration can help is "just helping people understand abortion law."

"This sort of patchwork that I was describing is going to be a huge problem. It's state-by-state, and it's going to be evolving very regularly, we would imagine," Gilbert said. "So making sure that the administration is being helpful on that front."

While laws on abortion access vary state by state, conservative states like Texas and Oklahoma have enacted vigilante abortion laws that encourage citizens to report those who they think have assisted in providing an abortion.

On Saturday, one day after the Supreme Court's ruling, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a guide to help people "know your rights" on reproductive care.

"People can find the info from the federal government. They've set up a website already, and so just making sure that that's updated and that people know about it and that they can get the information that they need," Gilbert said.

Read the original article on Business Insider