The Democratic leadership in both Congress and the White House is coming under increasing fire from the left for their bewilderingly inadequate response to the elimination of the national right to have an abortion.
But already, the Biden administration is ruling out a major proposal touted by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to ensure abortion access in some red states that have outlawed or severely restricted the procedure.
Warren, Ocasio-Cortez, and others have said one solution would be to build abortion clinics on federal lands, such as on the outskirts of national parks. “They could put up tents, have trained personnel–and be there to help people who need it,” Warren told the Washington Post Monday. “It’s time to declare a medical emergency.”
Rep. Cori Bush, a progressive Democrat from Missouri, said Saturday that the Biden administration should “leverage federal land for abortion care services.” And during a protest in New York City last week, Ocasio-Cortez described setting up clinics on federal lands “right now” as “the babiest of the babiest of baby steps.”
But during a Monday appearance on CNN, Vice President Kamala Harris dismissed the idea. “It’s not right now what we are discussing,” Harris said, before asking people to vote for Democrats in the midterms.
“When I think about what is happening in terms of the states, we have to also recognize we’re 130-odd days away from an election, which is going to include Senate races,” Harris said. “We don’t appear to have the votes in the Senate, well, there’s an election happening.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday the proposal was “well-intentioned” but “could actually put women and providers at risk.”
“And importantly, in states where abortion is now illegal, women and providers who are not federal employees, as you look at the federal land, could potentially be prosecuted,” Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday.
During a press conference Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra didn’t entirely rule out the proposal, though he said any decision would be cleared with President Joe Biden first.
“We are aware of a number of ideas and proposals, many of which we have been considering internally ourselves,” Becerra said. “Every option is on the table. We’ll take a look at everything we can, and everything we do will be in compliance with the law.”
Harris—who pledged to “get rid of the filibuster” when she ran for president in 2019—also indicated the White House wouldn’t apply pressure to Senate Democrats to kill the filibuster in order to codify the protections formerly provided by Roe v. Wade into federal law.
“Right now, given the current composition of the Senate, the votes aren’t there,” Harris said. When asked if the White House should use the “bully pulpit” to advocate for codifying abortion rights, Harris again pivoted to a plea to voters.
“The reality of it is, we don’t even get to really answer that, in terms of what happens or not, if we don’t have the numbers in the Senate,” Harris said. That’s why I keep coming back to the importance of an election… it really does matter.”
Pressed on her own position on the filibuster, Harris wouldn’t say what she believes, even though as recently as January she indicated Democrats should end the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation.
Sen. Joe Manchin, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, has repeatedly expressed support for codifying Roe’s protections, including on Friday when the ruling was issued. But when the Women’s Health Protection Act to do just that came up in the Senate in May, Manchin joined every Senate Republican in voting it down.
Still, the absence of an aggressive strategy from leading Democrats to protect what for nearly fifty years was recognized as a fundamental right to bodily autonomy has irritated even some more moderate Democrats.
Rep. Charlie Crist, a Florida House Democrat who’s running for governor (and who previously served as the state’s Republican governor), called for the impeachment of Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch on Friday.
“Frustration requires action,” Crist told the Times. “Or there’s no vent for it.”
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