HHS Secretary Pledges to Protect Access to Reproductive Health Care

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US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra pledged to protect access to reproductive health care at a news conference Tuesday, including considering measures to increase access to abortion with medications.

Becerra said the department would work to increase access to medical abortion nationwide and would work with the department’s Office for Civil Rights to protect patient and provider privacy.

HHS will also review the department’s authority to protect the clinical judgment of health care providers in the treatment of pregnant patients and will work to train physicians in family planning.

Becerra also said the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services would “take all legally available steps” to protect access to family planning care.

“There is no magic wand, but if there is something we can do, we will find it and we will do it at HHS,” Becerra said. “In fact, that was the instruction I received from the President of the United States.”

This move comes after the Supreme Court released a decision on Friday that overturned Roe v. Wade.

Becerra called the decision “despicable” and said it “disproportionately puts the lives and health of millions of our fellow citizens at risk.”

“The Supreme Court decision will result in worse health outcomes and death for some patients. Working to increase access to this medication (abortion) is a national imperative and of public interest”, said Becerra.

Becerra’s announcement Tuesday included some new and concrete steps to change the landscape of abortion access in a country where abortion rights are no longer federally guaranteed, but the HHS secretary insisted his department still aims to do more.

“You want to make sure that what you do is within, as I said, the limits of the law. We are not interested in becoming dishonest and doing things for the sake of it,” Becerra said. “To all the Americans who have been affected, my apologies because, as I said, we cannot tell you that there is a panacea. But what I am telling you is that the more we investigate, we will do everything we can with what we find to make sure that we are protecting women’s reproductive health services.”

The department is currently looking at ways to legally increase access to medical abortion treatments, Becerra said.

“Medical abortion, those treatments that the FDA has approved as safe and effective, are available by prescription. Under what conditions? Stay tuned,” she said.

Asked if the department is taking the position that because the pills are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, any doctor in the country can prescribe them, Becerra said he couldn’t be precise.

“Those medications that can be classified as medical abortions that have received FDA approval as safe and effective are therefore available by prescription. What I won’t do in answering your question is tell you exactly what that means,” he said, adding, “We’re going to stay within the bounds of the law, even though it’s a law that I personally believe endangers health. of women, we will stay within the limits of the law.”

Becerra emphasized that HHS is examining “all options” to address abortion access, including transportation assistance for people traveling out of state for an abortion.

She was asked if her department is considering making it easier for women who can’t legally have an abortion in their home state to travel, including through travel vouchers, something Vice President Kamala Harris told CNN she was considering.

“Once we tell you exactly what we think we can do and have the money to do it, we’ll let you know. But until then, what I can simply tell you is that all options are on the table,” Becerra said.

Becerra first mentioned the possibility of transportation on Aspen Ideas: Health on Saturday, where he said, “We’re looking at everything, including transportation assistance, something HHS doesn’t usually do.”

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