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June 24, 2022

Pressley Leads Black Congresswomen Urging Biden to Declare Public Health Emergency Amid Threats to Abortion Rights

Noting Disparate Impact of Dismantling Roe on Black Women, Lawmakers Call
for Swift Executive Action to Protect Abortion Rights and Save Black Lives

Text of Letter (PDF)

WASHINGTON – In a letter today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus’ Abortion Rights and Access Task Force, alongside Congresswomen Barbara Lee (CA-13), Co-Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus, Alma Adams (NC-12), Co-Chair of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, and Cori Bush (MO-01), led their Black women colleagues in urging President Biden to use all applicable executive authorities to protect fundamental reproductive rights and abortion access in response to recent attacks on abortion careincluding by declaring a public health and national emergency.

With the extreme right-wing Supreme Court majority poised to overturn Roe v. Wade—a move that would disproportionately put Black lives at riskPressley and several women members of the Congressional Black Caucus are calling on President Biden to act with urgency.

“It is clear that attacks on reproductive rights and abortion access are a threat to the public health and will put Black lives most at risk,” the lawmakers wrote. “We urge you to use any and all executive authorities to address the public health crisis our nation will face if Roe v. Wade is dismantled. Declaring a public health emergency and national emergency will allow your Administration to utilize additional flexibilities, deploy resources where necessary and act with the urgency that this moment requires.”

Research indicates Black women already face significant systemic barriers to accessing essential sexual and reproductive health care services, contributing to the alarming maternal morbidity rate, and one harrowing study estimates that banning abortion across the United States would result in an estimated 21% increase in maternal deaths across all races, and a 33% increase in maternal deaths among Black individuals. 

“In the midst of a Black maternal mortality crisis already robbing us of the lives of Black women three to four times the rate of white women, restricting access to abortion care will disproportionately endanger the lives of Black women and pregnant people,” the lawmakers continued. “In this unprecedented moment, we must act urgently as if lives depend on it because they do.”

Joining the lawmakers in sending the letter are Reps. Joyce Beatty, Brenda Lawrence, Gwen Moore, Yvette Clarke, Nikema Williams, Terri Sewell, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Ilhan Omar, Jahana Hayes, Lisa Blunt Rochester, Marilyn Strickland, Eleanor Holmes-Norton, Shontel Brown, Lucy McBath, Karen Bass, and Stacey Plaskett.

A copy of the letter can be accessed here.

In her time serving in Congress, Congresswoman Pressley has fought persistently to protect fundamental reproductive and sexual health care rights.

  • Last year, Congresswoman Pressley, along with U.S. Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Veronica Escobar (D-TX) and Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), introduced the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), bicameral federal legislation to guarantee equal access to abortion care, everywhere. Recently, she issued a statement condemning the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade., and implored the Senate to protect abortion rights and slammed the white supremacist roots of anti-abortion efforts.
  • In September 2021, Rep. Pressley issued a statement condemning the Supreme Court’s inaction on SB-8, Texas’ restrictive abortion law. Later that month, she participated in a House Oversight Committee hearing to examine the threat posed by abortion bans and underscored the urgency of the Senate passing the Women’s Health Protection Act. 
  • In April 2021, Rep. Pressley, along with Congresswomen Barbara Lee (CA-13), Diana DeGette (CO-01) and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), led a group of 131 Democratic members in reintroducing the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act or the EACH Act, which would repeal the Hyde Amendment and ensure that all people, regardless of income, insurance or zip code, can make personal reproductive health care decisions without interference from politicians.
  • As Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus’s Abortion Rights and Access Task Force, Congresswoman Pressley has led the fight to repeal the Hyde Amendments from annual Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bills and in July 2020 published a Medium post on the importance of doing so. The amendment was
  • In May 2020, she led more than 155 Members of Congress in calling on House Democratic leadership to ensure that any future COVID-19 relief packages rejected Republican efforts to use the public health crisis to diminish abortion access.
  • In May 2019, she led more than 100 colleagues in introducing H.Con.Res.40, a resolution reaffirming the House of Representative’s support for Roe v. Wade. 
  • In June 2019, Rep. Pressley introduced H.R. 3296, the Affordability is Access Act, to make oral contraception available without a prescription. 
  • In September 2016, as a member of the Boston City Council, Pressley championed a resolution calling on Congress and President Obama to repeal the Hyde Amendment and reinstate insurance coverage for abortion services.