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Federal Abortion Update: National Right to Life continues to monitor and pushback against the extreme Biden Administration agenda

by | May 8, 2024

By Jennifer Popik, J.D., Federal Legislative Director

Editor’s note. This appeared in the May issue of National Right to Life News. Please share with your pro-life family and friends.

While much of the attention in Washington, DC has been on passage of the high profile foreign aid bills in this sharply divided Congress, the Biden administration has been hard at work using their many administrative tools to expand abortion. Several controversial abortion-expanding rules were recently finalized. In addition, a new bill was introduced in the Senate to require the Biden administration to provide real data on abortions being done under a new controversial Veterans Affairs directive. 

EEOC and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

In June 2023, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) took effect after passing with wide bi-partisan support. The PWFA was enacted to fill a significant gap in regards to accommodating pregnant women — one to ensure a woman could both continue working with modification and maintain a healthy pregnancy. The legislation contained explicit abortion-related language ensuring the bill could not be used as a back door tool to require employers to pay for abortion. 

However, in the time since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, the Biden administration has been stretching and twisting every law imaginable to protect abortion, particularly in states that enacted pro-life laws. The PWFA is no exception.

On August 11, 2023, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published a proposed rule to implement the PWFA.  In an act of blatant overreach, the proposal used the PWFA to establish a nationwide requirement that employers with 15 or more employees make “reasonable accommodation” to enable employees to obtain elective abortion, including providing paid or unpaid leave. This mandate also applies to employers in states with protective pro-life laws.

On April 19, 2024, the EEOC finalized its abortion-expanding rule. On April 26, 2024, 17 state attorneys general took action, suing the EEOC.

Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti said in a statement, “Congress passed the bipartisan Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to protect mothers-to-be and promote healthy pregnancies, and the EEOC’s attempt to rewrite that law into an abortion mandate is illegal. I’m proud to lead the coalition fighting to protect the rule of law against this unconstitutional federal overreach. If the EEOC’s rule stands, the State of Tennessee, the co-plaintiff States, and countless employers will be forced to allocate resources to support elective abortions or face federal liability—even in states that have lawfully chosen to restrict elective abortions.  Seventeen states now bring this complaint to enjoin and set aside the EEOC’s unprecedented and unlawful mandate.”

Using HIPPA to Protect Abortion Providers

In similar fashion, the Biden administration is attempting to use a new interpretation of the decades-old Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) to shield the abortion industry. HIPAA requires the development of national standards to prevent protected health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent. In certain circumstances, the HIPAA Privacy Rule permits covered entities to disclose health information without patient authorization. These include exemptions for law enforcement purposes, abuse, threats to health or safety, and for data collection.

On April 22, 2024, the Biden administration finalized a new HIPAA rule, intended to specifically insulate the abortion industry from accountability and to deliberately interfere with state laws protecting life. This new Biden rule will prevent health care providers in a state with legalized abortion from disclosing information to a court or to law enforcement to a state trying to investigate a potential violation of law.

There are rare but critical times that investigation into an out-of-state abortion is necessary. If a woman lives in a state with protective prolife laws but is coerced by an abuser or a trafficker to get an abortion in another state with abortion-friendly laws, the home state will now be limited in its ability to conduct investigations. Similarly, a pro-life state would have much less power to investigate out-of-state individuals distributing dangerous abortion drugs via mail into their state. 

The Biden administration has been hyper-focused on promoting the abortion industry and expanding abortion into prolife states. This is yet another instance of the Biden Administration running roughshod over Congress to give special protections to abortion providers which will hinder valid investigations.

See more in this Congressional bi-cameral letter in opposition: https://www.regulations.gov/comment/HHS-OCR-2023-0006-0171.

Veterans Affairs and Abortion

On September 9, 2022, the Biden Administration, in violation of long-standing statute, pushed its Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to start performing abortions. The published rule mandates that the VA must provide abortion services through the taxpayer-funded VA health care system by providing for unlimited abortions for undefined “health reasons.” 

Despite efforts by Republicans in Congress to reverse this policy, the policy remains in place. While the policy is being rolled out at VA hospitals across the country, the VA has been reluctant and even unwilling to provide exactly how many abortions they are performing.

On April 16, 2024, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) introduced the VA Abortion Transparency Act to require the VA to disclose abortion statistics in the face of department stonewalling. 

According to Sen. Tuberville’s press release,

“In 2022, the Biden administration’s VA announced it would begin facilitating abortions for veterans and their dependents through the taxpayer-funded VA health care system. Despite multiple congressional inquiries and questions regarding the legality of such a change in long-standing policy, the VA implemented the regulation.”

 

National Right to Life will continue to monitor and pushback against the extreme Biden Administration agenda.