February 14, 2023

Warren, Senators Urge Biden Administration to Take New Steps to Protect Reproductive Freedom

Since Roe v. Wade was Overturned: At Least Eighteen States Have Eliminated All or Some Access to Abortion; Republicans in New Congress Have Passed Anti-Abortion Measures; Court Poised to Eliminate Access to Medication Abortion Nationwide

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) sent a letter to President Biden, urging his administration to take new steps to protect reproductive freedom amid divided control of Congress and increasing efforts to restrict access to abortion. 

“Each day, women’s lives are threatened because they are denied access to essential health care,” wrote the senators. “As President of the United States, you have a distinct role and responsibility to defend reproductive rights for all Americans and ensure those values are reflected in domestic and foreign policy. We urge you to continue using the resources of the entire federal government to mount a robust response to this crisis.”

After Roe v. Wade was overturned, Republican extremists doubled down on their attacks on reproductive freedom, endangering millions. In September 2022, Senate Republicans introduced legislation to ban abortion nationwide. House Republicans passed anti-abortion measures as their first order of business in the new Congress, and at least eighteen states eliminated all or some access to abortion. In some states, women have to travel over seven hours to find the nearest abortion facility. Health care providers are being forced to withhold life-saving care, and women suffering from miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, and other complications face higher risks. Anti-abortion extremists have also filed numerous lawsuits to strip access even further, including a baseless lawsuit in Texas that seeks to eliminate access to medication abortion nationwide.

The senators applauded President Biden for taking significant steps to protect access to reproductive health care services, including removing unnecessary requirements for medication abortion, inviting states to use Medicaid waivers to cover travel expenses for reproductive care, and increasing access to contraception under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

The senators laid out eleven new steps the Biden administration can take to respond to this growing crisis: 

  1. Clarify the resources and support available to individuals seeking abortion care outside of their home state by issuing guidance detailing Americans’ right to travel under the interstate commerce clause and exploring additional opportunities to finance travel and support for those seeking abortions.
  2. Continue efforts to protect the privacy and safety of abortion providers and patients by issuing new regulations to strengthen the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act to ensure that data cannot be shared with law enforcement and used to criminalize abortion providers or patients, and to ensure robust enforcement of the law.
  3. Protect access to medication abortion. In light of the deeply concerning lawsuit in Texas, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, which poses significant risks to medication abortion and FDA’s long-standing authority to regulate drugs in the United States, the administration should use every legal and regulatory tool at their disposal to keep this drug – which has a more than 22-year safety record – on the market. This includes any existing authorities, such as enforcement discretion, to allow mifepristone to remain available.
  4. Continue to evaluate remaining restrictions on medication abortion by continuing to follow the science to determine if any remaining restrictions on the distribution of mifepristone, including patient consent forms, are medically unnecessary. 
  5. Ensure veterans, service members, beneficiaries, and other federal employees can access abortion care, and that Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense health care providers who perform covered abortions can act without retaliation. 
  6. Enforce “Free Choice of Provider” requirements. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should more aggressively enforce federal laws that guarantee Medicaid beneficiaries the ability to seek family planning services from their provider of choice, and protect the existing right of people to access care from their provider of choice
  7. Rescind harmful Executive Orders that undermine access to abortion, contraception, and other reproductive care. 
  8. Ensure enforcement of the women’s health preventive services benefit under the ACA by ensuring individuals with private health insurance have affordable access to the birth control of their choice. 
  9. Ensure undocumented individuals seeking abortions, and those who assist them, can access that care without fear of detention or deportation. 
  10. Ensure those held in federal custody can access abortion care by expanding and enforcing existing protections to safeguard the right to abortion for those who elect to receive these services while being held in federal custody.
  11. Increase critical funding for domestic and global sexual and reproductive health services in the President’s 2024 Budget. The Budget Proposal should not include the Hyde Amendment or the Helms Amendment.

“In a post-Roe world, access to abortion care is increasingly limited nationwide. Medication abortion care has been safely used by millions since the FDA approved mifepristone more than 20 years ago. With access now on the line, the Biden administration must act swiftly to ensure this safe, FDA-approved medication remains available for those who want it,” said Kirsten Moore, Director of the EMAA Project. 

Senator Warren has called on the government to use every tool at its disposal to protect and expand access to reproductive care:

  • On November 18, 2022, Senator Warren led eight of her colleagues in a letter encouraging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to defend America's reproductive rights, and to consider steps to protect and expand access to medication abortion. 
  • On November 1, 2022, Senator Warren, Duckworth (D-Ill.), Hirono, and Smith (D-Minn.) released a report – based on information provided by leading health care providers – revealing the devastating consequences of state abortion bans and restrictions enacted by right-wing legislatures and the impacts of Senate Republicans’ extreme proposal to ban abortion nationwide after 15 weeks.
  • On August 4, 2022, Senator Warren, Mazie Hirono, and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urging concrete actions the Department can take to help meet President Biden’s goal of protecting and expanding access to medication abortion.
  • On July 29, 2022, Senators Warren and Hirono led 23 of their colleagues in a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), calling on the VA to take immediate administrative action to offer abortions and all abortion-related services to veterans and eligible dependents
  • On July 21, 2022, Senators Warren and Markey sent letters to Bark Technologies, Gaggle.net, GoGuardian, and Securly Inc., raising concerns that the software these companies use to monitor students’ online activity could be used to criminalize or punish students who are seeking information about abortion services and reproductive health care.
  • On July 19, 2022, Senators Warren, Smith, and Murray (D-Wash.) led a group of their Democratic colleagues in introducing the Expanding Access to Family Planning Act.
  • On July 14, 2022, Senators Warren, Booker (D-N.J), Padilla (D-Calif.) and over a dozen Senate Democrats wrote to President Biden and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, urging them to immediately declare national and public health emergencies over Americans’ access to reproductive care.
  • On July 11, 2022, Senators Warren and Klobuchar (D-Minn.) sent letters to Facebook and Instagram, calling on them to address their reported censorship of posts related to abortion services, following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.
  • On July 7, 2022, Senator Warren announced two key data brokers’ commitments to permanently stop selling the location data of people seeking abortion services.
  • On June 25, 2022, following the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Senators Warren and Smith wrote an op-ed in the New York Times laying out the next steps in the fight to protect the right to an abortion, including calling for the declaration of a public health emergency.
  • On June 23, 2022, Senators Warren and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) introduced the Stop Anti-Abortion Disinformation Act, legislation that would crack down on false advertising that crisis pregnancy centers employ to dissuade patients from getting the reproductive care they need, including abortion care. 
  • On June 15, 2022, Senator Warren introduced the Health and Location Data Protection Act, legislation that bans data brokers from selling some of the most sensitive data available about everyday Americans: their health and location data. 
  • On June 7, 2022, Senators Warren and Patty Murray led 23 of their Senate colleagues in a letter to President Biden urging him to immediately issue an executive order directing the federal government to develop a national plan to defend Americans’ fundamental reproductive rights, including their right to an abortion.
  • On May 17, 2022, Senator Warren led thirteen of her Senate colleagues in letters to two data brokers demanding answers regarding their collection and sale of the cellphone-based location data of people who visit abortion clinics such as Planned Parenthood. 
  • On May 10, 2022, Senator Warren delivered a speech on the floor of the United States Senate on the need to protect the constitutional right to an abortion, pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, and fight back against Republican extremism. 
  • On May 9, 2022, Senator Warren wrote an op-ed in Marie Claire about the need to enshrine the right to an abortion in federal law. 
  • On May 3, 2022, when the draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked, Senator Warren spoke on the steps of the Supreme Court twice to activists, protestors, and the nation about the need to protect abortion rights.