By Senator Lena C. Taylor
January 22, 2023 marks the 50th Anniversary of Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade Decision. In acknowledgment of this milestone, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a report entitled: “Marking the 50th Anniversary of Roe: Biden-Harris Administration Efforts to Protect Reproductive Health Care”. The report outlines the actions HHS has taken in the face of the health crisis precipitated by the Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Calf.
I appreciate the work that has been done by the Biden-Harris Administration to fight alongside women, girls and their families facing the harsh new reality that their reproductive health care decisions are no longer in their hands. It is hard to imagine that in my life time the right to access a safe abortion has come and gone.
The US Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization held that the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion. While the courts further asserted that the authority to regulate abortion was returned to the people and their elected representatives, in most cases it was simply returned to state legislatures.
In Wisconsin, abortion care is no longer provided. However the “people” weren’t allowed to weigh in on that decision. On the first senate legislative session of the year, the Republican-controlled legislature decided they didn’t want to hear from Wisconsin voters on this issue. However, the neighboring state of Minnesota has permitted abortion to remain legal. They have also taken the additional step to introduce a bill to codify the right to abortion into state law.
Understanding these inconsistencies and inequities, the work of the Biden-Harris administration to protect and expand women’s access to reproductive health care is paramount to the lives of so many. Even forms of contraception and other forms of reproductive health care are under attack. It cannot be understated that our daughters have fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers.
Using the tools available to them, HHS has taken actions focused on six core priorities: Protecting Access to Abortion Services, Safeguarding Access to Birth Control, Protecting Patient Privacy, Promoting Access to Accurate Information, Ensuring Non-discrimination in Healthcare Delivery, and Evidence- Based Decision Making at the FDA.
A few key actions include reaffirming the Department’s commitment to protecting the right to abortion care in emergency settings under EMTALA, issuing guidance to clarify protections for birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and protecting medical privacy by empowering patients to protect their medical information on smart phones and apps. Elections have consequences and so do judicial appointments. Roe v. Wade has taught us that. We must now educate ourselves and others on how to respond to those consequences. The full report can be read at https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/roe-report.pdf.