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White House downplays prospect of providing abortion services on federal lands

Vice President Kamala Harris and a White House official indicated the Biden administration is not pursuing the proposal put forth by a group of Senate Democrats.
Abortion rights activists gather near the White House on June 26, 2022.
Abortion rights activists gather near the White House on Sunday.Nathan Howard / Getty Images files

WASHINGTON — The White House signaled Monday that it is not pursuing a Senate Democratic proposal that says the Biden administration could offer abortion services on federal lands after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last week.

Just days after the court ruled to strike down the landmark 1973 decision that guaranteed abortion rights nationwide, a White House official said that the Democratic proposal was “well-intentioned” but that it “could put women and providers at risk.”

“Importantly, in states where abortion is now illegal, women and providers who are not federal employees could potentially be prosecuted,” the official said.

Vice President Kamala Harris also downplayed the proposal Monday in a CNN interview.

“It’s not, right now, what we are discussing,” Harris said.

Ahead of Friday's Supreme Court ruling, more than two dozen Democratic senators sent a letter urging President Joe Biden to issue an executive order directing federal agencies to map out a plan to ensure protections for abortion services wherever possible.

In the letter, the group of 25 senators suggested June 7 that the Justice Department "could analyze the types of reproductive health services that could be provided on federal property, especially in states where such services are limited by state law or regulation."

Among those who signed the letter were Sens. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Michigan has an anti-abortion law that was on the books but unenforceable after the 1973 Roe decision, while Ohio is one of the 13 states with so-called trigger laws, which were designed to snap into effect immediately or soon after Roe was reversed.

Asked about other steps the Biden administration plans to take, the White House official said Biden will continue to emphasize that “only Congress can fix the situation."

In remarks from the White House on Friday, Biden said, “My administration will use all of its appropriate lawful powers, but Congress must act.”