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Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks at the Interagency Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access


Washington, DC
United States

Thank you, Vice President Harris, for bringing us together today.

The fallout from the Supreme Court’s decision last summer to overturn Roe v. Wade has been swift and severe.

Since then, the Department of Justice has worked with commitment and urgency to defend the reproductive freedoms that are protected by federal law. 

During our last meeting, I discussed the work of the Department’s Reproductive Rights Task Force to safeguard federal protections of reproductive rights.

Today, and following President Biden’s Memorandum on Further Efforts to Protect Access to Reproductive Healthcare Services, I want to provide another update on three important areas of our work.

First, we continue to advise federal agencies on legal issues related to reproductive health in the aftermath of Dobbs. And we are defending agencies as litigation arises.

More than two decades ago, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug mifepristone as safe and effective to terminate early pregnancies.

But a decision issued last Friday by the District Court for the Northern District of Texas would displace the FDA’s expert judgment and roll back the agency’s approval of mifepristone.

The Justice Department strongly disagrees with the court’s unprecedented decision to do that in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA. We therefore appealed the decision, and we filed a motion for a stay pending that appeal. 

As our filings make clear, the decision would severely harm women across the country.

It would deprive patients of a safe and effective medication to manage their reproductive health.

And it would allow doctors to challenge FDA approval of any drug – or any other federal action that allegedly injured third parties.

This could happen to any medication that Americans rely on, no matter how essential it is, and no matter how long ago it was approved. 

The Justice Department will continue to defend the FDA’s approval of mifepristone – as well as the FDA’s role as the expert body that Congress has designated to make decisions about the safety and efficacy of prescription medicines in this country.

Second, we are continuing to vigilantly monitor state laws and enforcement actions that threaten to impingeon federal protections of reproductive rights.

For example, we are continuing to litigate our challenge to Idaho’s abortion ban to the extent that it conflicts with the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, known as EMTALA. 

As we explained in our filings in that case, Idaho’s law prohibits abortion when it is the medically necessary treatment to stabilize a patient’s emergency medical condition.

Last August, the District Court for the District of Idaho granted our motion for a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of Idaho’s law as applied to medical care that is required by EMTALA.

In addition, as I said on the day that Dobbs was announced, women who reside in states that have banned access to comprehensive reproductive care must remain free to travel to states in which that care is lawful. 

And, under the First Amendment, individuals must remain free to inform and counsel each other about the reproductive care that is available in other states. 

The Justice Department will defend these bedrock constitutional protections. And we will continue to evaluate private-party litigation that would benefit from our participation.

Third, we are continuing to work to protect health care providers and individuals seeking reproductive health services.

In this regard, we are enforcing the Freedom of Access to Clinic [Entrances] Act – known as the FACE Act. 

That law prohibits anyone from obstructing access to reproductive health services – including abortion services, pharmacies that provide reproductive health services, and pregnancy counseling services – through violence, threats of violence, or property damage.

We are working to ensure that federal prosecutors across the country are equipped to bring FACE Act cases. 

But in addition, we are conducting training for U.S. Attorneys’ Offices on the FACE Act. Our National Task Force on Violence Against Reproductive Health Care has prepared a training webinar for State Attorney Generals offices. 

And we have emphasized that Civil Rights Division attorneys in the Justice Department are always available for consultation and technical assistance. 

I am grateful to Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, who is leading these very important efforts for the Department. 

And I am grateful to all the professionals across the Department who are working to ensure Americans’ freedom to reproductive rights protected by federal law.

Together, and with the people in this room, we will continue to fulfill the Justice Department’s founding responsibility to protect the civil rights of all Americans.

Thank you.

Updated April 12, 2023