Bloomberg Government subscribers get the stories like this first. Act now and gain unlimited access to everything you need to know. Learn more.
Efforts by President Joe Biden and Congress to protect abortion access are intensifying more than two weeks after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The House plans to vote this week on two abortion-rights bills, and several House and Senate committees are holding hearings on the legal and medical landscape of post-Roe America.
At the White House, Biden signed an executive order Friday to safeguard womens’ medical data. The president also said declaring a public health emergency to facilitate abortion access to women in restrictive states isn’t off the table. But fault lines are emerging within Biden’s own party on whether those efforts are too little, too late.
House Action on Abortion Set for This Week: The House returns from its July 4 recess tomorrow with plans to vote on updated legislation to codify Roe v. Wade (H.R. 8296) and a measure that would ensure women can cross state lines to obtain legal abortions (H.R. 8297), according to a letter that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) sent to colleagues on Friday. The House Rules Committee is scheduled to consider both bills on Tuesday.
- H.R. 8296 would ban all restrictions on abortions, other than those that are medically necessary. The bill would block restrictions that have been included in various state laws. Read the BGOV Bill Summary by Christina Banoub.
- H.R. 8297 would ban efforts to enforce state laws preventing anyone from obtaining, providing, or facilitating abortion access across state lines. Read the BGOV Bill Summary by Christina Banoub.
The House last year passed similar legislation (H.R.3755) aimed at limiting governmental restrictions on access to abortion services. But the latest version cites the Dobbs decision and subsequent action by states. It also clarifies that the bill’s provisions couldn’t be interpreted “to diminish a person’s ability to obtain or provide abortion services.” Read more from Zach C. Cohen.
Biden Summons FTC Push to Safeguard Abortion Data: Biden’s move to protect abortion access includes an effort to enlist the Federal Trade Commission to help the Health and Human Services Department guard reproductive health care privacy. Biden, in his July 8 executive order, urged the FTC to use its authority over corporate fraud and other practices deemed unfair to consumers. He called on the agency to help combat “digital surveillance” of reproductive care based on data like fertility app usage.
“There’s an increasing concern that extremist governors and others will try to get that data off of your phone, which is out there in the ether, to find what you’re seeking, where you’re going, and what you’re doing with regard to your healthcare,” Biden said. Read more from Andrea Vittorio and Allie Reed.
- Prior to the court’s ruling that has sparked alarm on sensitive data, five states—California, Virginia, Colorado, Utah and Connecticut—have enacted comprehensive consumer data privacy laws in recent years, part of a growing trend of state action in the absence of a sweeping federal law. Read more from Jake Holland.
- In the weeks since Roe’s fall, a new question has emerged for workers: how to keep an abortion secret from colleagues or managers? While sensitive patient health information is federally protected through the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), benefits administered separately, such as reimbursements for travel to receive an out-of-state abortion, are not. Read more from Arianne Cohen.
- In the House, Oversight and Reform Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) is requesting information from data broker and personal health app about the collection and sale of personal reproductive health data, which could put patients at risk of harassment violence, she told firms including SafeGraph, Digital Envoy and Placer.ai., Megan Howard reports.
Biden Says Emergency to Defend Abortion Still on Table: Biden said he’s asked his team to explore the possibility of declaring a public health emergency to protect abortion rights. “I’ve asked the folks on the medical, people in the administration to look at whether I have the authority to do that and what impact it would have,” Biden told reporters Sunday. He pressed abortion-rights supporters to “keep protesting.”
Senior officials at HHS and the White House discussed the emergency option before a June 28 news conference the agency, but set aside the idea due to concern that the impacts wouldn’t justify the inevitable legal battle, according to people familiar with the matter. Jennifer Klein, head of the White House Gender Policy Council, said an emergency declaration is “not off the table,” but questioned whether it would help. Read more from Nancy Cook.
MORE ON ROE’S FALL:
- The US is now an outlier in reproductive health care, joining just three other countries—Poland, El Salvador and Nicaragua—in rolling back legal access to abortion in the past three decades. Nearly 60 countries over the same time period have liberalized their abortion laws, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. Read more from Kelsey Butler and Chloe Whiteaker.
- Progressives are paying more attention to state courts in an attempt to protect abortion access and other priorities while acknowledging they’re playing catch up. “Lots of folks are already focused on state courts, unfortunately they’re all on the right,” Molly Coleman, executive director of the progressive young lawyers group People’s Parity Project, Madison Alder reports.
- A group of Texas Republican state legislators plan to unveil a bill targeting Sidley Austin and other law firms that have made vows to cover travel expenses for employees seeking abortions in states where the service will be unavailable. The Texas Freedom Caucus said it’ll unveil legislation in the next session that imposes “additional civil and criminal sanctions” against law firms that pay for abortions or abortion travel, according to a letter. Justin Wise has more.
- Couples have been forced to reconsider how they’ll safeguard against unwanted pregnancies, as hundreds of men have begun rushing to book vasectomy procedures. Read more from Sri Taylor.
Also Happening on the Hill
Hill Hearings This Week:
- Abortion Rights: The overturning of Roe v. Wade will be the subject of several committee hearings, including in Senate Judiciary tomorrow, House Oversight and Reform and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on Wednesday, and House Judiciary on Thursday.
- Nominations: The Senate Finance Committee holds a Tuesday hearing to consider the nomination of Rebecca Lee Haffajee as assistant Health and Human Services secretary for planning and evaluation. The Senate Indian Affairs Committee holds a Wednesday hearing to consider the nomination of Roselyn Tso to be director of the Indian Health Service under the Health and Human Services Department.
- BGOV Calendar: See the full list of hearings and events this week.
House Aims to Tackle Spending Bills This Month: The House plans to vote on a package of six appropriations bills the week of July 18, including the Agriculture-FDA and Military Construction-Veterans Affairs spending bills, according to a release. Find text of the bills here.
Biden’s Economic Agenda Heads Into Pivotal Month: Crunch time has finally arrived for Biden’s economic agenda as congressional Democrats scramble for a deal on a slimmed-down version of what was once a multi-trillion-dollar overhaul of domestic policy. The Senate aims to pass the revised package before its summer recess begins Aug. 8, a move that would line up a win for Democrats defending their slim congressional control ahead of November’s midterm elections. Erik Wasson has the latest.
- An effort on Capitol Hill to reduce skyrocketing US drug costs may undercut its own goal by stripping pharmaceutical companies of the incentives for producing blockbuster drugs and their cheaper counterparts, industry groups and analysts warn. Congress returns this week to begin weighing in earnest a retooled reconciliation measure that would need buy-in from every Democratic senator before advancing. The package would require government health plans, including Medicare, to negotiate the prices of medicines with the companies that produce them. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed to a modified version to allow Medicare to negotiate drug costs and limit seniors’ out-of-pocket costs at $2,000 per year. Ian Lopez has more.
Congress’ July Agenda: Two packages — bipartisan legislation to boost US competitiveness with China (H.R. 4521) and the budget reconciliation bill covering several Democratic priorities — are likely to dominate the discussion. For more on those and the full list of Congress’ summer priorities, download the BGOV OnPoint.
What Else to Know Today
HHS Has Most Civilian Contract Money Out of $209 Billion Pool: A projected $15.2 billion out of the Department of Health and Human Services leads civilian agencies in the Bloomberg Government forecast of procurement obligations going to contractors before Sept. 30. The fourth quarter of fiscal 2022 overall is estimated to result in $209 billion in contracts, as agencies engage in the annual rush to spend authorized procurement funds before the end of the fiscal year. Read more from Paul Murphy.
Formula Shortages Persist in Several States: Despite efforts to restart the baby formula plant at the epicenter of the US crisis, and millions of bottles of the product being flown in from aboard by the government, shortages are still raging in several states. Nationwide, the latest in-stock figure for formula was at 70% for the week ending July 3, down from 77% the week ending June 5, IRI Worldwide data show. Read more from Martine Paris.
Hospitals’ Face Cash, Staff Challenges for Next Crisis: Emergency preparedness experts say many of the more than 1 million US deaths due to Covid-19 could have been avoided if hospitals had better planned how to communicate with one another and share resources like ventilators, beds, and staff. Despite near-universal agreement the US should never again be so unprepared, there’s growing concern the sense of urgency is waning. Read more from Allie Reed.
Pfizer Gets FDA Approval for Vaccine for Teens: Pfizer-BioNTech gained full US regulatory approval for their Covid vaccine for teens 12 to 15, a milestone that will allow the partners to continue to market it to adolescents after the pandemic. Their vaccine earlier got formal approval for teens 16 and older. Read more from Riley Griffin.
Texas Judge Extends Ban on Trans Children Care Probes: A state judge extended a ban on Texas authorities investigating some members of an LGBTQ group who arrange gender-affirming care for children, as the issue makes its way through the courts. The temporary injunction blocks the state for now from investigating two families with trans children. Shira Stein and Laurel Brubaker Calkins have more.
To contact the reporter on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org