Health Care — Biden steps further into abortion battle
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He may not be 2000 years old, but a happy belated birthday to Mel Brooks, who turned 96 yesterday— and doesn’t feel a day over 95.

Today in health care, President Biden is stepping up his response to Roe v. Wade’s overturning — but still faces some major obstacles.

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 Sullivan, Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi. Subscribe here.

Biden leans into abortion fight 

President Biden is injecting new vigor into the fight to protect abortion rights, seemingly nudged into action by criticism from within his own party about a lackluster response to date.

  • Biden branded the Supreme Court’s decision last week to strike down the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling “outrageous” and “destabilizing” during a Thursday news conference in Madrid. 
  • More importantly, he declared his support for a carveout to the Senate filibuster in order to codify Roe’s now-stricken provisions into federal law. 

Biden said that if “the filibuster gets in the way” of such a law, then “an exception” would have to be made.  

The big caveat: His chances of success in that regard look slim, however.  

Every Senate Democrat would need to vote to amend the filibuster rules, given that no Republicans are expected to back such a move. There are no signs as yet that Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have altered their previous opposition to filibuster reform.

Praise from progressives: That said, Biden’s move was welcomed by progressives, who have been dismayed by the administration’s response to the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision rescinding a right that had stood for almost half a century.

“Now we’re talking!” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) enthused on Twitter about Biden’s pledge. “Time for people to see a real, forceful push for it. Use the bully pulpit. We need more.”

Read more here.

But…Biden concedes Dems don’t have the votes

President Biden conceded Friday that Democrats currently lack the votes to alter the legislative filibuster to pass abortion rights legislation, adding the party’s goal should be to pick up two seats in the midterm elections to do so.

  • “Ultimately, Congress is going to have to act to codify Roe into federal law,” Biden said during a virtual meeting with Democratic governors on reproductive rights Friday afternoon. 
  • “The filibuster should not stand in the way of us being able to do that, but right now we don’t have the votes in the Senate to change the filibuster,” Biden said. “That means we need two more votes.”  

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have expressed opposition to changing the filibuster and reiterated that their positions had not changed through spokespeople following Biden’s remarks on Thursday. 

Warning of GOP moves: Biden on Friday also repeatedly said he thought that Republicans would try to ban abortion nationwide if they achieve majorities in the House and Senate after the midterm elections.   

“This is going to go one way or the other after November,” the president said. 

Can it change the midterms? History, polling and current economic conditions suggest Democrats are on a path to lose seats in Congress in the upcoming elections. Still, Democrats believe that the issue of abortion rights could be a game-changer come November, particularly when it comes to appealing to female voters. 

Read more here.

📱 CONTACT TRACING NO MORE

The D.C. Health Department ended its COVID-19 contact tracing program on Thursday, laying off 131 workers employed by the program.

  • “The COVID-19 Contact Trace Force has been instrumental in helping slow the spread of COVID-19 in the District of Columbia,” D.C. Health told The Hill.
  • “However with COVID infection levels coming down and easier access to at-home testing kits, the COVID-19 Contact Trace Force is no longer as effective or vital a tool as it was during the peak of the pandemic.” 

The District of Columbia government currently considers COVID-19 infection levels in the area “low,” the most recent weekly case rate coming in at 195.9 for the week of June 19-25 and the most recent hospital admission rate at 0.4 percent.

D.C. Health emphasized that its department gave advance notice of the end of the trace force and aided its employees in finding new roles. 

Read more here.

👩🏻‍⚖️ OKLAHOMA ABORTION BANS CHALLENGED

Abortion providers in Oklahoma filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s two abortion bans on Friday, just a week after the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to an abortion.

  • The lawsuit asks the Oklahoma Supreme Court to strike down two bans: one that was enacted in 1910 and revived when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last week, and another law scheduled to take effect in August that makes performing an abortion a felony by up to 10 years in prison. 
  • It was filed by Dechert LLP, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America on behalf of providers such as Tulsa Women’s Reproductive Clinic and Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma. 

They also asked the court to issue an emergency order to block the bans while it reviews the lawsuit. 

“As more and more states ban abortion in the region, it is all the more imperative that this court act swiftly to rule under its own constitution and restore abortion access in the state,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. 

Read more here.

DeSantis vows to fight judge’s decision on abortion ban

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is vowing to appeal a judge’s decision to temporarily block Florida’s 15-week abortion ban, which the court called unconstitutional. 

  • DeSantis said at a press conference on Florida’s “Improved Civics Literacy Rates” that his administration had been expecting this decision and will continue the “legal battle.”
  • “That was likely going to be what was decided in that case. We knew that we were going to have to move forward and continue the legal battle, and that’s something that was decided under state law,” DeSantis said.
  • “It was not of course something, you know, that we were happy to see,” he added. 

The dispute: The Florida law, which the governor signed in April, bans all abortions past 15 weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest.

However, the plaintiffs, including Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, say that abortions are protected under the Florida constitution.  

Judge John C. Cooper said Thursday that he will temporarily block the 15-week abortion ban from taking effect. 

“While we are disappointed with yesterday’s ruling, we know that the pro-life HB 5 will ultimately withstand all legal challenges,” a spokesperson for DeSantis’s office told The Hill. 

Read more here. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Post-Roe, states struggle with conflicting abortion bans (AP) 
  • Walmart is working on a response to the Supreme Court’s abortion decision, CEO says in memo (CNBC)  
  • How much health insurers pay for almost everything is about to go public (Kaiser Health News) 

STATE BY STATE

  • Miami pediatrician ousted from state board for her comments about COVID vaccine policy (Miami Herald) 
  • Abortion-rights advocates in the 13 trigger law states refuse to give up post-Roe (NPR) 
  • At a New Mexico abortion clinic, calls flood in from Texas and wait time for appointments grows (Texas Tribune)  

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

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