Rubio introduces bill to block Biden admin from declaring emergency over abortion

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has introduced legislation to prevent President Biden’s administration from heeding Congressional Democrats’ call to issue an emergency declaration in order to expand abortion access.

Rubio introduced the bill on Tuesday as reporting emerged that the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department was considering declaring a public health emergency after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, overturning Roe v. Wade and allowing states to determine their own abortion laws. That was one of the requests in a June letter in which Democratic lawmakers also called on Biden to issue a national emergency declaration under the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. 

It’s unclear how the White House will act, but declaring a national emergency is one of many avenues pro-abortion forces have explored as a way to bypass state abortion laws after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs. A similar strategy has been explored by left-wing forces urging Biden to declare a national emergency over climate change. 

Declaring a national emergency over abortion would likely prompt a slew of lawsuits and political battles with figures like Rubio. In June, he and other GOP senators also introduced legislation to ban the executive branch from declaring national emergencies by amending the National Emergencies Act and Public Health Service Act. 

Utilizing federal agencies would also likely undermine the intent of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits taxpayer funding of most abortions. 

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As Live Action News previously noted:

The White House said in July that calling for a public health emergency for abortion access didn’t “seem like a great option.”

Public health emergencies are normally declared for natural disasters, instances like the opioid crisis, and pandemics. Pregnancy is not a disease and the births of more human beings — the ones typically targeted for abortion — are not a danger to the American public, despite the implications of pro-abortion U.S. lawmakers.

Nevertheless, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra expressed openness to the idea. According to Axios, he said last week, “There are discussions on a wide range of measures … that we can take to try to protect people’s rights.” Although a “full assessment” hasn’t been conducted, Becerra added that “[t]here are certain criteria that you look for to be able to declare a public health emergency. 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.”

In their June letter, Democrats lambasted the Dobbs decision and said it put women’s health at risk.

“The Supreme Court’s radical and dangerous decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has precipitated a full-scale reproductive health crisis across our nation,” claimed the letter, which was signed by more than 80 House Democrats. 

“It has also plunged our health system into a state of uncertainty and upheaval that threatens patients’ lives. Abortion bans can unnecessarily impede lifesaving medical procedures in the event of pregnancy complications or loss. Health experts warn that in the aftermath of this disastrous ruling, the U.S. maternal mortality rate — which is already the highest in the developed world — is certain to rise, with disproportionate impacts on communities of color.”

Meanwhile, pro-life advocates have criticized this line of reasoning. “In the end, the ability not to kill preborn babies does not make for a public health emergency,” National Right to Life Committee President Carol Tobias told the Catholic News Agency. “There are times where I think this is absolutely their No. 1 priority.”

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser similarly released a statement deriding Democrats’ framing of the issue as a “crisis.”

“Democrats’ pro-abortion extremism knows no bounds,” she said in a press release. “They think allowing more Americans to be born is a crisis, and the only solution is ending those lives through abortion for any reason up until birth. Their latest scheme would result in taxpayer-funded abortion on demand across the country with no protections whatsoever for unborn children or their mothers – including dangerous mail-order abortion drugs that put women at risk of serious complications. If Democrats were truly concerned about women facing difficult circumstances, they would support the pregnancy centers which serve them and outnumber Planned Parenthood 14 to one nationwide. They would be in good company too, since 91% of Americans support this compassionate pro-life safety net.”

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