Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks at White House Convening of Lawyers in Defense of Reproductive Rights
Remarks as Delivered
It has now been 35 days since the Supreme Court overturned Roe and Casey, eliminating a fundamental constitutional right that had been essential to the freedom and equality of women in the United States for half a century.
On that day, I know we all feared what was to come. And what has happened in the days since has confirmed those fears. The impact of the decision on the lives of people across our country has been immediate, wide-ranging, and devastating.
Over the past month, states across our nation have taken steps to impose abortion bans and other restrictions on access. In states with the most severe restrictions, there is no longer a single clinic providing abortions.
At the same time, we have seen reports of hospitals denying women necessary care for miscarriages and other medical emergencies.
We have seen reports of pharmacies refusing to fill prescriptions for contraceptives.
And we have learned the story of the 10-year-old victim of rape who was forced to travel across state lines to obtain an abortion.
The Justice Department recognizes this situation as the crisis that it is. We recognize the profound threats and devastating harms being posed not only to women’s health and safety but also to their civil rights. And we recognize that the consequences have been and will continue to be especially devastating for people of color and those of limited financial means.
The Justice Department is working relentlessly to protect access to reproductive services.
Since the day Dobbs was decided, we have made several points clear:
Women who reside in states that have banned access to abortion must remain free to seek that care in states where it is legal.
States may not ban the abortion medication Mifepristone based on disagreement with the FDA’s expert judgment about its safety and efficacy.
Federal agencies may continue to provide reproductive health services to the extent authorized by federal law.
And the Department will continue to enforce the FACE Act and protect healthcare providers and individuals seeking reproductive health services in states where those services remain legal.
The Justice Department’s Reproductive Rights Task Force, led by Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, is vigilantly monitoring state laws and enforcement actions to ensure that states do not infringe upon these and other protections of reproductive rights.
And when we learn that states are infringing on federal protections, we will consider every tool at our disposal to affirm those protections — including filing affirmative suits, filing statements of interest, and intervening in private litigation.
As I have already announced, one of our first priorities will be to enforce the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which requires hospitals to provide necessary stabilizing treatment – including abortion – to people suffering from an emergency medical condition. The law could not be clearer, and we are going to vigorously litigate this issue to ensure that women get the emergency medical care to which they are entitled.
We recognize how high the stakes are, and that the Justice Department has a tremendous responsibility to do everything in our power to protect access to reproductive services. That is what we intend to do.
But as the President’s Executive Order makes clear, we cannot do this work alone.
Today, we are bringing together leaders from the federal government, the reproductive rights community, and legal services providers from across the country with members of the private bar who are offering their time and skill to defend reproductive rights. This convening is an important opportunity to begin our work together to address the greatest needs on the ground.
Alongside our Reproductive Rights Taskforce, the Department’s Office for Access to Justice, led by Director Rachel Rossi, will serve as a point of contact for these efforts in the days ahead.
Before I turn the program over to the White House Counsel, I want to express my deep gratitude to everyone who has taken the time to be here today. This work is difficult, and it will continue to be so. But the effort to defend reproductive freedom could not be more urgent. Thank you for being part of it.