Date: December 8, 2020
To: Interested Parties
From: NARAL Pro-Choice America
Re: Biden-Harris cabinet could chart a new course for reproductive freedom
As the incoming Biden-Harris administration continues to announce its cabinet selections, including California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Tony Blinken to lead the State Department, NARAL Pro-Choice America and the reproductive freedom movement are also paying particular attention to President-elect Biden’s selections for attorney general and secretary of labor. These key positions have the potential to influence fundamental aspects of reproductive freedom in our country.
Over the past four years, we have seen Trump officials in these positions wage an all-out war on reproductive freedom, using their posts to roll back our fundamental rights. We are pleased by the selection of Xavier Becerra as secretary of health and human services and Tony Blinken as secretary of state, and we are confident that the incoming Biden-Harris administration will appoint an attorney general and secretary of labor who understand the importance of safeguarding and advancing reproductive freedom.
Secretary of Health and Human Services
As President-elect Biden’s nominee for secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Xavier Becerra will have the opportunity to undo the damage done by Trump-appointed Tom Price and Alex Azar and proactively advance reproductive freedom and should:
- Issue guidance to lift the FDA’s in-person dispensing requirement for mifepristone for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency, consistent with similar directives and waivers issued to reduce the risk of COVID-19
- Direct the FDA to undertake a comprehensive review of the restrictions on mifepristone to determine whether the restrictions are necessary or should be modified or removed to best reflect scientific evidence and real-world use
- Rescind the refusal of care rule, which unlawfully and dramatically expanded existing refusal laws in an attempt to allow denials of care and discrimination against women and LGBTQ people
- Rescind the Trump administration’s rule that seeks to undermine the Affordable Care Act’s critical nondiscrimination protections for women and LGBTQ people.
- Rescind the Trump administration’s rules that allow virtually any employer or university to deny insurance coverage for contraception
- Rescind the domestic gag rule, which has decimated the Title X family planning program
- Rescind the Trump administration’s rule that imposes onerous and arbitrary requirements on insurance issuers that offer health plans that include abortion coverage on the ACA marketplace
Over the past four years, HHS has been weaponized by regressive, anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ zealots who rubber-stamped discrimination. Alex Azar, who referred to his agency as the “Department of Life” in a statement at last year’s anti-choice March for Life, has worked tirelessly to undermine reproductive freedom, attack access to abortion and contraception, and block access to healthcare for LGBTQ patients.
The U.S. attorney general is responsible for enforcing federal laws, including laws with a significant impact on reproductive and civil rights such as Title VII, Title IX, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, and the Affordable Care Act, as well as core constitutional protections. President-elect Biden’s attorney general must take the following actions to uphold our nation’s federal laws:
- Demonstrate a clear commitment to core constitutional protections, including the legal right to abortion
- Combat and prevent violence and discrimination against reproductive healthcare providers, patients, and staff
- Enforce federal civil rights and nondiscrimination laws that have a serious impact on the lives and legal rights of women, low-income individuals, people of color, LGBTQ individuals, young people, immigrants, indigenous people, and other marginalized people
Secretary of State
President-elect Biden recently announced his plans to nominate Antony Blinken as the nation’s next secretary of state. In this role, Blinken will have the opportunity to roll back Trump-appointed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s policies and practices that attacked reproductive freedom and the global fight for gender equity. Incoming Secretary of State Blinken should immediately prioritize protecting and advancing reproductive freedom on the world stage by taking the following actions:
- Work with the White House and the U.S. Agency for International Development to rescind the global gag rule and undo the damage done by the Trump administration’s dramatically expanded version of the policy
- Re-engage on a global scale to advance the reproductive freedom of people worldwide and leverage diplomatic capacity to urge all countries to protect and advance reproductive freedom
- Take action to re-engage fully with the United Nations, including by working with other relevant government actors to refund the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations’ sexual and reproductive health agency, and rejoin and refund the World Health Organization
- Abandon and disavow efforts by the Trump administration to attack reproductive freedom and the rights of LGBTQ people around the world, including by rejecting the work of the anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ Commission on Unalienable Rights and withdrawing U.S. support for the Geneva Consensus Declaration, an anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ declaration that has little support from the global community
Secretary of Labor
The U.S. Department of Labor can play a key role in developing, promoting, and enforcing policies that expand reproductive freedom and benefit women and families, including:
- Robustly enforce the federal guarantee that workers can take job-protected family and medical leave and support passage of a comprehensive paid family and medical leave program
- Work with the Office of Personnel Management to ensure that federal workers are aware of their rights to paid parental leave under Federal Employee Paid Leave Act
- Ensure that access to emergency paid leave and sick days is a priority in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
- Vigorously safeguard working people from discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of pregnancy