25 U.S. Senators Urge Biden to Issue Executive Order Protecting Abortion Rights: ‘An All-Hands-on-Deck Moment’

As the Supreme Court prepares to overturn Roe, senators urge Biden to “demonstrate to the country and women everywhere that you will do everything in your power to fight back.”

From left, Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) conduct a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol to voice support of abortion rights, on May 19, 2022. (Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) led 23 of their Senate colleagues last week 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.

“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment to protect abortion rights. With the Supreme Court likely to overturn Roe v. Wade any day now—fulfilling Republicans’ radical, decades-long push to ban abortion—we need an all of government plan to protect every American’s reproductive rights,” said Murray, who serves as chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

A leaked opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization from early May indicated that the Court was preparing to overturn the 49-year-old precedent Roe v. Wade, which recognized the constitutional right to abortion healthcare. In addition to overturning abortion rights, the broadly-written leaked opinion threatens constitutional rights to contraception as well.

“With Republicans continuing their nonstop attacks on the right to abortion, access to birth control, IVF and so much more, Democrats must fight back with every lever we have to get women the care they need,” said Murray.

States legislatures have passed a record-breaking number of restrictions this year, including abortion bans and civil bounty hunter laws in Texas and Oklahoma. If Roe is overturned, 26 states are certain or likely to ban abortion, and Republican leaders have already stated they will push for a nationwide abortion ban covering all 50 states. 

“As extremist judges and Republican politicians intensify their efforts to strip Americans of their basic reproductive freedoms, you can demonstrate to the country and women everywhere that you will do everything in your power to fight back,” states the letter.

The senators’ letter calls for Biden to mobilize the “full force of the federal government” to protect the right to abortion.

“We urge you to immediately issue an executive order instructing the leaders of every federal agency to submit their plans to protect the right to an abortion within 30 days. Americans across the country are at risk of losing their fundamental rights, including their constitutional right to abortion protected for generations. They deserve no less than a whole-of-government response.”

The letter lays out several specific recommendations, including:

  • Increasing access to medication abortion. 
  • Providing resources for individuals seeking abortion care in other states, such as vouchers for travel, childcare services and other forms of support.
  • Establishing a reproductive health ombudsman at the Department of Health and Human Services to educate the public and analyze data about access to reproductive services.
  • Enforcing the “Free Choice of Provider” requirements guaranteeing Medicaid beneficiaries the freedom to seek family planning services from their provider of choice.
  • Clarifying protections for sensitive health and location data to prevent the sale of personally identifiable information from websites and apps (such as period trackers) in states that criminalize reproductive decision-making.
  • Using federal property and resources to increase access to abortion, such as providing federal employees with paid time off and reimbursement for expenses necessary to access abortion.

“Democrats need to use every tool at their disposal to protect women and their constitutional right to an abortion. President Biden’s executive authority to marshall the resources of the entire federal government is one of our most powerful tools. With an extremist Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, now is the time to act,” said Warren. 

Sign and share Ms.’s relaunched “We Have Had Abortions” petition—whether you yourself have had an abortion, or simply stand in solidarity with those who have—to let the Supreme Court, Congress and the White House know: We will not give up the right to safe, legal, accessible abortion.

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Carrie N. Baker, J.D., Ph.D., is the Sylvia Dlugasch Bauman professor of American Studies and the chair of the Program for the Study of Women and Gender at Smith College. She is a contributing editor at Ms. magazine. You can contact Dr. Baker at cbaker@msmagazine.com or follow her on Twitter @CarrieNBaker.