In response to the new Texas abortion law, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced a plan to make more resources available to “defend reproductive health.”
President Biden has voiced his opposition to SB 8, a new Texas law that effectively bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. Following the law’s passage, Biden tried to devote all of his resources to overturning it, including a contentious direction for the Department of Justice to initiate lawsuits against Texas.
The Department of Health and Human Services has responded to Biden’s call to arms by providing a variety of services and choices to “bolster” access to safe and legal abortions in Texas.
New HHS instructions will include funding support for clinics, resources for health care employee protections, and legal protections for pregnant people and people who have experienced “pregnancy loss.”
The most daring initiative is what appears to be a “gotcha” use of the Conscience Protections for Health Care Providers, which previously protected health care workers from discrimination for refusing to perform an abortion, sterilization, or other procedure on religious or moral grounds – but now says that a health care worker is protected from discrimination for performing any such procedure.
Texas’ new abortion law allows private persons to file a civil action against an abortionist or someone who helps and abets abortion if the abortion provider detects the unborn baby’s heartbeat before performing the procedure, or if they refuse to check for a heartbeat after six weeks of pregnancy.
Because many women do not discover they are pregnant until they are past six weeks’ gestation, many abortion activists have decried the rule as effectively overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.
After the Supreme Court denied an emergency appeal from abortion providers and others to put the law on hold while appeals were filed, S.B. 8 went into effect on Sept. 1. The justices indicated that their decision is unlikely to be the final word on whether the statute can be upheld.