Democratic governors call on Biden to use federal facilities for abortion access

By: - July 4, 2022 7:00 am

President Joe Biden met with Democratic governors Friday about abortion. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

A group of Democratic governors urged President Joe Biden on Friday to use federal facilities to provide access to abortions, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade last week.

In a video conference with nine governors, including Kate Brown of Oregon, Roy Cooper of North Carolina, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico and Jared Polis of Colorado, Biden called the court’s ruling “tragic” and said he shared “the public outrage” about it. He repeated pledges to use the federal government to continue abortion access where it still exists, and called for electing more Democrats to expand protections.

Lujan Grisham and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul encouraged Biden to use federal facilities, such as Veterans Affairs hospitals, military bases and Indian Health Service clinics to offer abortion access.

“We ask that you consider your ability to use federal facilities,” Hochul said, including “veterans hospitals, military bases and other places where the federal government controls the jurisdiction in some of the states that are hostile to women’s rights and make sure that those services are available to other women.”

Lujan Grisham added that Native nations in her state have told her they’d allow abortion services at IHS facilities.

“That may be yet another vehicle that we could expand that would protect women and particularly minority populations all across the country,” she said.

Clinics on federal land

Some congressional Democrats have also urged Biden to allow abortion clinics to operate on federal lands in states that restrict access to the procedure.

Asked about that possibility Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said all options are on the table.

As he did the day of the ruling, Biden said the federal government would protect the right to cross state lines in pursuit of an abortion and ensure that approved medications would remain available.

And he repeated a position he took Thursday that the Senate should make an exception to the filibuster, a rule requiring 60 votes to pass most legislation, to codify the protections that had been in place under Roe v. Wade.

Two Democrats in the evenly split U.S. Senate have said they oppose changing the filibuster, meaning Democrats would have to gain new seats in November’s midterm elections for a chance to pass a federal abortion bill, he said.

Biden sharpened campaign-style lines urging voters to send more Democrats who favor abortion rights to Congress, saying Republicans posed a threat to abortion access nationwide.

“We’re going to be in a situation where the Republicans are going to pass a nationwide prohibition, consistent with what the Supreme Court ruled,” he said. “So there’s a lot at stake here.”

Strong talk

Cooper, the head of the national campaign group Democratic Governors Association, said he would “hold the line” against any efforts by the Republican Legislature to restrict abortion access in his state. Cooper added that more Democratic state lawmakers would help him sustain vetoes.

The meeting came a week after the court ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that a right to an abortion is not guaranteed in the Constitution.

The ruling allowed each state to set its own abortion laws, almost immediately creating a patchwork of access to the procedure throughout the country.

“For now at least, where you live is going to determine your rights,” Cooper said. “It’s up to the states to determine whether women can get reproductive health care.”

But while each state can now set its own laws on abortion access, even states that haven’t altered their approach after the court’s ruling are being affected, Cooper said. As other southeastern states ban or restrict access, Planned Parenthood clinics in the Tar Heel State expect an additional 10,000 patients from out of state in the next year, he said.

About 20 minutes of the meeting was open to the press and live streamed. The conversation appeared set to continue after press access ended, with Biden asking the governors to consider what they would do in his position.


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Jacob Fischler
Jacob Fischler

Jacob covers federal policy and helps direct national coverage as deputy Washington bureau chief for States Newsroom. Based in Oregon, he focuses on Western issues. His coverage areas include climate, energy development, public lands and infrastructure.

Indiana Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.