(Bloomberg) -- Vice President Kamala Harris dismissed the notion of allowing doctors to practice abortions on federal property in an attempt to bypass state restrictions imposed after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
“It’s not right now what we are discussing,” Harris said Monday in an interview with CNN.
Democratic lawmakers had floated the idea of opening abortion clinics on federal lands as a way to sidestep new state restrictions on the procedure. Nearly two dozen Democratic senators asked President Joe Biden to explore the “types of reproductive health services that could be provided on federal property” in a letter over the weekend.
“There are also actions at President Biden’s disposal that he can mobilize,” New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said at an abortion rights rally on Friday. “I’ll start with the babiest of the babiest of baby steps: Open abortion clinics on federal lands in red states right now.”
But a White House official said the proposal, while well intentioned, risked putting women and providers in legal jeopardy in state courts. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Other experts have warned that doctors who performed abortions on federal land in states where the procedure was illegal could risk losing their licenses.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said over the weekend that the administration was examining possible assistance to women to travel to states where an abortion was still legal.
The Hyde Amendment, which Biden supported as a senator, prohibits the use of federal spending on abortion.
The White House has said it is looking for ways to preserve abortion access for women following the ruling, which overturned the federal right to an abortion and left the decision up to states. At least 22 states already have laws on the books that significantly restrict or fully outlaw abortion, with others likely to move quickly in that direction following the court ruling.
“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 is available,” Harris told CNN.
Biden said Friday he had ordered the department to ensure abortion drugs are available “to the fullest extent possible,” while requesting the Justice Department intervene should officials in states that ban abortion try to prevent people from traveling to obtain the procedure.
On Monday, the Office of Personal Management said that federal workers could use sick leave to travel for medical appointments out of state, and would not need to provide documentation of what specific procedure they undertook.
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