HHS secretary Becerra promises access to abortion in case of rape and risk to woman’s life

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xaviar Becerra holds a press conference to unveil the Biden administration’s plan of action following the dismissal of Roe v. Wade at the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, U.S., June 28, 2022.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on Tuesday directed federal health agencies to ensure that victims of rape and incest in states where abortion is illegal have easy access to abortion drugs.

Becerra told reporters that federal law requires HHS programs to provide abortion pills in exceptional circumstances, such as when a woman’s life is in danger or in cases of sexual assault.

That commitment, he says, takes precedence over the abortion bans some states have imposed since the Supreme Court’s decision last week to strike down the landmark 1973 case Roe v. USA. Wade’s decision.

“Five Americans have decided to use the tremendous power given to them by our democracy and our Constitution to shamelessly put the lives and health of millions of our compatriots at risk,” Becerra said at a press conference.

“HHS has been preparing for this for some time,” he continued. “There is no magic bullet. But if there is something we can do, we will find it and do it at HHS. Indeed, this was an instruction I received from the President of the United States.”

Supreme Court decision overturning Roe’s decision which defended a woman’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy caused outrage across the country among supporters of access to abortion.

But it also caused a wave of confusion, as several states immediately banned all forms of abortion and sentenced medical professionals who perform the procedure to prison terms.

However, these states prohibit the prosecution of women who have had an abortion, indicating that many women with unwanted pregnancies Can you still have abortions at home? with medicines purchased online from international telemedicine companies.

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Aid Access, one such global provider of abortions, told CNBC that it will continue to send abortion pills to women in every state in the US.

The Food and Drug Administration first approved the abortion pill, mifepristone, in 2000, and the drug is approved in the US for abortion before the 10th week of pregnancy. The use of medical abortion is becoming more common in the US, and was used in more than 50% of abortions nationwide in 2020, according to a survey of all known providers conducted by the Guttmacher Institute.

Becerra declined to elaborate on how aggressively the federal government would crack down on state restrictions on abortion, except in cases where a woman’s life is in danger or the unwanted pregnancy is the result of sex crimes.

“We are going to stay within the law,” he said.

He also instructed the agency to check its credentials so that doctors and hospitals can treat pregnant women who have a miscarriage or complications in any way they deem medically necessary. He also said that Medicare and Medicaid will take all “legally available steps” to ensure patients have access to family planning resources, “including emergency contraception and long-acting reversible contraceptives such as the IUD.”

The Minister of Health added that he has directed the Office of Civil Rights at HHS to ensure patient confidentiality for those who seek reproductive health care, as well as for providers who offer reproductive health services.

CNBC Spencer Kimball made a report.