Overnight Healthcare

Health Care — White House rejects using federal land for abortion

As officials work on reaching out to convince parents of kids under 5 to get vaccinated, Elmo got his COVID-19 vaccine today

Today in health care, the White House is not on board with an idea pushed by some Democrats to try to allow abortions on federal lands. We’ll also look at what the administration is saying about access to abortion pills.

Welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. For The Hill, we’re Peter SullivanNathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here.

Big ‘ramifications’ to abortion idea, White House says

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday warned that there could be “dangerous ramifications” to providing abortion services on federal lands in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling that struck down Roe v. Wade.

Pressure to do more: The Biden administration has come under pressure from progressives to take tougher actions in response to Roe v. Wade’s overturning, including considering the use of federal land in states opposed to abortion to provide the service. 

But Jean-Pierre said it doing so could put those providing and getting the service at legal and physical risk. 

  • “With this proposal — we understand the proposal is well intentioned, but here’s the thing: It could actually put women and providers at risk. And importantly, in states where abortion is now illegal, women and providers who are not federal employees, as you look at the federal land, could potentially be prosecuted,” she told reporters on Air Force One.
  • “As we understand why they would put forward this proposal, there’s actually dangerous ramifications to doing this,” she added. 

Calls from progressives: 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. 

Read more here.

Becerra stops short of lawsuits to shield abortion pills

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on Tuesday stopped short of saying the Biden administration would sue in a bid to stop states from banning abortion pills, saying the details are still being worked out on actions on that front.

“We will certainly assert and defend our legal authorities,” Becerra told reporters at a press conference when asked about filing lawsuits through the Department of Justice. 

“What exactly that translates into depends on what a state tries to do,” he added.  

When pressed by a reporter about conservative states that have already put into effect sweeping abortion bans that include bans on abortion pills, Becerra said the department had to “investigate and then enforce.” 

“We have to make sure we collect the evidence but we are intent on protecting people’s rights under the law,” he said. 

Big picture: Protecting access to abortion pills is seen as one of the main ways that the Biden administration can seek to protect abortion access in conservative states that are enacting bans on the medical procedure. 

Read more here.

TEXAS COURT BLOCKS ENFORCEMENT OF PRE-ROE ABORTION BAN

A Texas court on Tuesday temporarily blocked the state’s long-dormant pre-Roe v. Wade abortion ban that had suddenly been reinstated after Roe was struck down on Friday, a move that will allow some clinics to resume the practice. 

  • A Texas district court granted a preliminary injunction in response to a lawsuit from activist groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights.
  • The injunction and lawsuit relate to a 1925 abortion ban that was removed from the books following the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, as courts interpreted it to be repealed and unenforceable.
  • But in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe’s constitutional right to an abortion, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said the 1925 ban was back in effect and that prosecutors could choose to immediately pursue criminal charges against abortion providers 

Takeaway: Prior to Friday’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, abortion was available in Texas up to six weeks’ gestation. Since then, all abortions in the state have ceased. The injunction will allow abortion up to six weeks of pregnancy to resume at some clinics. 

Read more here.

JUUL SAYS FDA OVERLOOKED KEY DATA IN APPLICATION

E-cigarette company Juul argued in court documents filed on Tuesday that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had overlooked a mountain of data that it had included in its application that demonstrated its products’ benefit to public health, and said the decision to ban the product was based on “deeply flawed reasons.” 

  • In the court documents, Juul said it had included more than 110 scientific studies and more than 125,000 pages of data and analysis that showed its e-cigarettes offered “substantial public-health benefits.”
  • “Instead of praising a significant public-health victory, FDA denied JLI’s applications for arbitrary reasons and demanded that retailers remove all JUUL products from their shelves or face immediate action,” Juul wrote in its argument, further claiming that the FDA’s decision could not be “squared” with science. 

Last week, the FDA announced it was banning Juul from marketing and selling it products. Products from the company that are already out on the market would have to be removed, per the agency’s decision.  

Read more here.

Panel favors updating COVID vaccines for omicron

An expert advisory vaccine panel for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday voted in favor of recommending updated COVID-19 vaccines specifically designed to combat the omicron variant. 

  • Among the voting members of the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC), 19 voted in favor of recommending an omicron-specific booster while two voted against the endorsement.
  • The FDA is not required to follow the committee’s recommendations, though the agency usually does. 

Several members of the vaccine panel reasoned that the likely benefits of an omicron-specific vaccine — possibly a bivalent shot — outweighed the possible risks. 

Still some debate: During the meeting, however, members brought up several possible points of contention regarding the recommendation. 

Some members argued that approaching the COVID-19 pandemic like it was the flu with seasonal boosters was not the right path, pointing out that the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been shown to mutate faster than the influenza virus. 

Read more here.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Gen Z is influencing the abortion debate — from TikTok (Washington Post
  • Defining “life-threatening” can be tricky in abortion law exceptions (Axios
  • When Brazil banned abortion pills, women turned to drug traffickers (The New York Times)

STATE BY STATE

  • Republicans Are Sending Abortion Back to the States. But D.C. Isn’t a State. (Politico
  • Californians can vote to add abortion to the state’s constitutional rights (NPR)  
  • Iowa governor seeks to revive Iowa’s 6-week abortion ban after Roe v. Wade overturn (Des Moines Register)

OP-EDS IN THE HILL

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage. See you tomorrow.

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