Harris says administration isn’t discussing abortion services on federal land

Vice President Harris speaks during a meeting about abortion rights and Roe v. Wade.
Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press
Vice President Harris speaks during a meeting about abortion rights and Roe v. Wade.

Vice President Harris said that the Biden administration is not discussing providing abortion services on federal lands in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling that struck down Roe v. Wade.

“I mean, it’s not right now what we are discussing,” Harris said in an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash on Monday when asked if using federal lands is an option.

“But I will say that when I think about what is happening in terms of the states, we have to also recognize, Dana, that we are 130 odd days away from an election, which is going to include Senate races,” she said, turning attention to the upcoming midterm elections.

Harris was questioned on what executive powers President Biden has to act following the Supreme Court’s historic decision. Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), have called on the Biden administration to use federal land to create places where people can receive abortions in states that restrict them.

Harris said that at the moment, the White House is focused on ensuring people seeking abortions receive care where they can.

“I think that what is most important right now is that we ensure that the restrictions that the states are trying to put up that would prohibit a woman from exercising what we still maintain is her right, that we do everything we can to empower women to not only seek but to receive the care where it’s available,” Harris said.

A White House official said in a statement that while the proposal to offer abortion services on federal land was well-intentioned, it could still put women and providers at risk, including those who could face prosecution in states where abortion is now or expected to be banned.

The 5-4 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision by a majority of conservative justices struck down Roe v. Wade, overturning a nearly 50-year-old precedent that has ignited a political firestorm across the U.S. since it was made official by the court.

Biden in remarks on Friday vowed to do what he can with his executive authority, including by ensuring access to Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved contraception and medication to end early pregnancies and by protecting women who will now be required to travel to states where abortion rights are protected.

Harris pointed to those comments in discussing other potential actions by the administration to provide abortion access as trigger laws in more than one dozen states that will ban abortion are set to take effect following the Supreme Court ruling.

“The president rightly last week, when the decision came down, indicated quite unambiguously that we will do everything within our power — as an administration through the executive branch — to ensure that women have access to the medication they need, which has been, by the way, FDA-approved and they will have freedom of travel and that travel should be unrestricted,” Harris said.

“I’m sure that our Department of Justice is going to do that,” she added when asked if the administration would move on those actions through the courts if needed. 

Harris, who has been meeting with stakeholders on abortion rights in recent weeks, on Friday said the ruling spurred a “health care crisis” in the United States and warned that other rights were under threat. 

She also urged voters to elect more Democrats in order to codify the right to an abortion into law, as well as protect the rights to birth control, same-sex marriage and interracial marriage, echoing Biden’s remarks earlier that day.

Updated 7:10 p.m.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Biden Dana Bash Elizabeth Warren Joe Biden Kamala Harris roe v wade Supreme Court
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