Vice President Kamala Harris said Monday that the White House isn’t currently exploring the possibility of opening abortion clinics on federal lands in states that have banned the procedure ― an idea that progressives began pitching after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last week.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have been urging the White House in recent days to consider the possibilities offered by federal lands in red states, where millions of people have lost access to nearby abortion care.
“I think one of the things that we know, too, is that there are also actions at President Biden’s disposal that he can mobilize. I’ll start with the babiest of the babiest of the baby steps: Open abortion clinics on federal lands in red states right now. Right now,” Ocasio-Cortez said at a protest Friday in New York City.
Warren made similar remarks at a rally in Boston that day, saying the White House and Congress should “explore just how much we can start using federal lands as a way to protect people who need access to abortions in all the states that either have banned abortions or are clearly on the threshold of doing so.”
The federal government owns more than a quarter of the land in the U.S., with most of it concentrated in the West. In Utah, one of the first states to enact its abortion “trigger ban,” more than 60% of the land is federally owned. Wyoming, Idaho and Arizona ― three other states hostile to abortion rights ― also have high proportions of federally owned land.
But Harris said the Biden administration is focused on ensuring people can still access abortion in the places where clinics remain open, saying that what’s “most important right now” is “that we do everything we can to empower women to not only seek but to receive the care where it is available.”
People who need abortions in states where it has been or will soon be outlawed can access the procedure only if they can afford the costs of traveling out of state, which includes the costs of transportation, lodging, missed wages and child care.
Bash asked Harris if the Biden administration is prepared to offer “financial resources, some form of voucher for travel, child care services” for people who need that assistance. Harris acknowledged the need but didn’t make any firm commitments.
“We want to make sure that there [will not be] extreme disparities ... based on who can receive care based on how much money they have got,” she said.
The vice president also reaffirmed that the Biden administration is opposed to any states attempting to punish people for helping a patient travel to another state for an abortion, and she added that the Justice Department will challenge those laws in court.