NARAL Pro-Choice America
San Francisco, California
As Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, President Timmaraju, and everyone at NARAL Pro-Choice America for inviting me to address you today and for your critical work to protect and expand access to reproductive justice and freedom.
I also want to recognize:
- Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis, California;
- California Attorney General Rob Bonta;
- Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford;
- State Senator Jen Jordan; and
- Dagmar Dolby, Founder of the Power of Choice event
Thank you for your leadership.
A little over a week ago at the State of the Union, President Biden spoke loud and clear to the nation: We must protect access to reproductive health care, including the right to safe and legal abortion.
I am no stranger to this issue. In Congress, I helped pass the Affordable Care Act, which increased access and patient protections across the board, including ending the practice of gender rating (charging women more than men for care) and bans on pre-existing conditions (such as pregnancy), and expanding Medicaid, which covers more births than any of program in the country.
As Attorney General of this great state, I defended the ACA all the way to the Supreme Court, and challenged the previous administration’s attacks on birth control and interference in what information doctors are able to provide patients.
And as HHS Secretary, I’m proud to be part of an administration committed to protecting health care and rights for all.
Because I don’t have to tell you--right now, reproductive rights are under attack. In fact, more state abortion restrictions were passed in 2021 than any other year since Roe v. Wade was decided back in 1973.
Some states are trying to prevent family planning providers from participating in their Medicaid programs, denying coverage for contraception or going as far as trying to ban people from leaving a state where abortion is not available for the care.
We see what’s happening in Texas, where out-of-state abortions have skyrocketed. One Texas woman went all the way to Mississippi, driving hundreds of miles and spending thousands of dollars just to get the reproductive care she needed.
Another woman was told she was at high-risk of sepsis and dying if her pregnancy wasn’t terminated. Her baby wouldn’t survive either way, they said, but they couldn’t perform the operation because they were in Texas.
The woman said she felt like her state was saying she didn’t matter, that her life was expendable. In America. In the year 2022.
This is unconscionable. It is unacceptable. And we will not stand for it.
And we are seeing these same plays from anti-choice advocates in States now targeting gender affirming care and our LGBTQI+ communities, targeting our gender nonconforming and trans youth.
Politicizing people’s health care and lives is dangerous and we must fight back.
Reproductive justice is not luxury. It is a necessity.
Health care is not a privilege. It is a right.
Those are the principles we must live by. Those are the values we must fight for. And that’s exactly what we’re doing at HHS
Earlier this year, on the anniversary of Roe, I launched an HHS-wide Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access to address these critical priorities and identify ways we can bolster access to sexual and reproductive care.
In October, we replaced the previous administration’s Title X rule, which stifled access to reproductive care.
We’ve also made a strong commitment to expanding post-partum care.
We’ve approved state proposals to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage for mothers following delivery in five states: Illinois, Georgia, Missouri, Virginia, and New Jersey.
We know how critical this coverage is. In fact, in December, HHS released showing exactly that. The study found that if all states adopt 12 months of postpartum coverage, approximately 720,000 people annually would have access to expanded postpartum coverage—including over 220,000 Latino and over 130,000 Black beneficiaries. That, my friends, is a game-changer.
We’ve also provided grants to thousands of women facing challenges accessing health care while caring for their families – including through Title X and community clinics, which provide care for women nationwide.
We’re committed to defending our LGTBTQI+ community. In response to the Texas governor’s directive to investigate parents and families of trans youth—that’s right, investigate families—who are seeking gender affirming care, HHS announced several actions that we hope bring clarity and support to youth, families, caretakers, and health care providers across the state.
This includes guidance to state child welfare agencies to advance safety and support for LGBTQI+ youth, which importantly can include access to gender affirming care.
This is just a snapshot of our work. But I’m proud of everything we’ve achieved over the last year. And I’m grateful to have allies like NARAL in this fight.
These issues are personal for me, not just professional. My wife Carolina is a high-risk OBGYN. She’s seen firsthand what happens when mothers don’t get the post-partum care they need. The consequences can be deadly.
But despite all of the hardship and heartbreak Carolina has witnessed, she still lives up to her favorite daily motto: “Willing is not enough; we must do.”
At HHS, we are more than willing to protect reproductive justice and freedom. We are doing it every single day. And we will not stop until everyone has access to the health care and peace of mind they deserve.
We will continue to fight. And looking at this room, I know you will too.