After a Senate hearing about the legal implications of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Department of Justice announced a new step in protecting reproductive freedom. Associate Attorney General Venita Gupta announced the creation of a reproductive rights task force that she will chair.
“As Attorney General Garland has said, the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision is a devastating blow to reproductive freedom in the United States,” Gupta said in a statement. “The Court abandoned 50 years of precedent and took away the constitutional right to abortion, preventing women all over the country from being able to make critical decisions about our bodies, our health, and our futures. The Justice Department is committed to protecting access to reproductive services.”
Vice President Kamala Harris called the task force “an important step in safeguarding access to reproductive health care for women across the country.” She said it is a formalizing of the ongoing work the Justice Department has already been doing.
President Biden unveiled an executive order last week that drew sharp criticism from advocates and providers for not going far enough. The DOJ’s move could be seen as taking additional steps beyond those laid out by the president. The DOJ’s statement said the task force would work with external stakeholders such as service providers and state attorneys general.
Some reproductive advocates applauded the move. The Center for Reproductive Rights CEO Nancy Northup said in response, “this moment calls for a robust legal response and with its new Reproductive Rights Task Force, the Justice Department has brought the full weight of its authority to address this public health & legal crisis over abortion access.”
Alexis McGill, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called the reproductive rights task force a meaningful step.
“In the 18 days since the Supreme Court made the cruel and heartbreaking decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, I’ve traveled across the country to some states where people have been most impacted by the decision,” said McGill. “On every trip, I’ve heard the stories of people feeling the insurmountable weight of losing access to a right with each passing day. Providers — whose sole priority should be delivering health care to those who need it — have to consider new constraints, including weighing the very real risk of criminalization.”
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