White House marks Women’s Equality Day with abortion rights push

By Thomson Reuters Aug 26, 2022 | 6:07 AM

By Nandita Bose and Ahmed Aboulenein

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House will mark Women’s Equality Day on Friday by meeting state and local leaders to discuss ways to safeguard access to abortions amid a flurry of legal challenges against its efforts to protect reproductive rights.

Senior White House officials, who have been meeting with state legislators after the U.S. Supreme Court in June ended the constitutional right to abortion, will meet elected officials from Kansas, New York, Maryland, North Carolina and Delaware, senior administration officials said.

The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) will release a report, mandated by an executive order signed by Biden, that builds on previously announced measures such as tackling medication abortion and protecting patient privacy.

HHS will also issue a letter to state governors emphasizing healthcare providers must offer abortion services if the life of a mother is at risk and that such procedures would be protected under federal law, the officials said.

The White House recently launched a three-prong push to protect abortion access, first reported by Reuters, that leans on two federal statutes to target states that limit abortion, communicates to voters the impact on women, and accentuates how forced pregnancies harm both women and men.

A federal judge on Wednesday blocked Idaho from enforcing a ban on abortions when pregnant women require emergency care, a day after a judge in Texas ruled against the Biden administration on the same issue. The conflicting rulings came in two of the first lawsuits over Biden’s attempts to keep abortion legal.

About half of U.S. states have or are expected to seek to ban or curtail abortions following the Supreme Court ruling.

A new Pew Research Center poll this week showed abortion rocketing up as a priority for Democratic voters — from 46 percent in March to 71 percent today.

A decisive victory for abortion rights in deeply conservative Kansas and a win on Tuesday for a New York Democrat who campaigned on abortion rights in a swing district have boosted Democrats’ hopes they can harness voter anger over the issue to prevail in competitive races during the midterm elections in November.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose and Ahmed Aboulenein in Washington; editing by Richard Pullin)