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Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, speaks during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol to voice support for abortion rights, on May 19, 2022.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, speaks during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol to voice support for abortion rights, on May 19, 2022.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

Senate Democrats press Biden for executive actions on abortion

More than 20 Senate Democrats have signed on to a letter — first reported by NBC News — urging the president to take specific steps.

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More than 20 Senate Democrats have signed onto a letter urging President Joe Biden to issue an immediate executive order directing his administration to develop a plan to defend reproductive protections, including the right to access abortion care, while also highlighting six specific steps the administration can take unilaterally to bolster access to abortion. 

Sent to the White House Tuesday, the letter states: “Americans across the nation and at every level of government must stand up against this unprecedented assault on women and their right to make decisions about their own bodies and lives. But as President of the United States, you have the unique power to marshal the resources of the entire federal government to respond.”

The effort behind the letter, first reported by NBC News, was led by Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

The senators seek six specific federal actions:

  • Increasing access to medication abortion.
  • Providing resources for people crossing state lines to access abortion care, such as travel vouchers and childcare services.
  • Installing a reproductive health ombudsman at the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Enforcing Medicaid’s “Free Choice of Provider” requirements that let patient get family planning care from a provider of their choice.
  • Re-defining language around data collection through websites and mobile applications.
  • Increasing abortion accessibility, for example giving federal employees paid time off and reimbursement for expenses related to abortion care or having the Department of Justice assess what kind of reproductive services could be provided on federal property.

This push for specifics comes weeks after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that showed the court was prepared to overturn abortion precedent in its decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. That official decision is expected this month. 

After the leaked decision, Senate Republicans blocked the passage of legislation that would have codified federal protections for abortion. Since then, Democrats have vowed action on the issue— but federal options beyond the legislative are limited. 

In the letter, senators highlight past moments — on racial justice and systemic inequality; on voting rights; and on economic competition — where the Biden administration leveraged its whole of government response to address the problems at hand.

“Americans across the country are at risk of losing their fundamental rights, including their constitutional right to abortion protected for generations,” they say. “They deserve no less than a whole-of-government response.”