Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra promised Tuesday that his department plans to “move as aggressively” as it can to ensure that women can get abortions while “complying with the law.”
The secretary’s admittedly careful remarks came during a Tuesday press conference that HHS promised would include an announcement of “action” in response to the historic overturn of Roe v. Wade. He repeatedly told reporters that “every option is on the table” but declined to specify whether he supported suggestions to open abortion clinics on federal lands.
HHS is “aware of a number of ideas and proposals, many of which we have been considering internally,” he said, but the department has not made any decisions yet.
One reporter who questioned the secretary pointed out that much of his remarks contained information already stated by the Biden administration in previous months.
“When can we expect more concrete steps?” she asked. “Are your hands tied?”
Becerra responded by telling the reporter that overturning Roe v. Wade upended “50 years of precedent.”
“You want to make sure that what you do is within the confines of the law,” he insisted. “We are not interested in going rogue and doing things just because. We want to make sure what we tell Americans is accurate.”
“Friday’s Supreme Court decision was despicable, but it was also predictable,” Becerra said in prepared remarks. “HHS has been preparing for this for some time.”
The secretary announced the launch of the HHS Reproductive Access Task Force to “plan for every action necessary to protect women’s access to reproductive health care.”
“There is no magic bullet,” he added. “But if there is something we can do, we will find it and we will do it at HHS. Indeed, that was the instruction I received from the President of the United States.”
Becerra promised that the department would take steps to ease access to abortion drugs, claiming that “federal law requires our programs to provide medication abortion in limited circumstances, including life of the mother, rape, or incest. ”
“Now more than ever it is imperative that all federally-supported programs and services are complying and providing this under the law,” he added.
Becerra also said that he is directing the Office for Civil Rights to “ensure patient privacy and nondiscrimination” for both patients seeking or providers performing abortions.
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