Could Utah's federal lands become a safe haven for abortion?

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., speaks at a news conference on Dec. 7, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Leading Democratic women in Congress are calling on President Joe Biden to use federal lands as a "safe haven" for abortion.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., speaks at a news conference on Dec. 7, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Leading Democratic women in Congress are calling on President Joe Biden to use federal lands as a "safe haven" for abortion. (Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — In the aftermath of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, leading Democratic women in Congress are calling on President Joe Biden to use federal lands as a "safe haven" for abortion.

The proposal takes aim at states that have banned or severely restricted abortion. Utah's trigger law went into effect on Friday, the same day the Supreme Court handed down its 5-4 decision overturning Roe, the landmark 1973 ruling that recognized women's constitutional right to abortion, and released a related 6-3 decision that upheld Mississippi's restrictive abortion law.

Utah's trigger law, passed by the Utah Legislature in 2020, allows abortions only if the mother's life is at risk, if the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest, or if two physicians who practice "maternal fetal medicine" both determine that the fetus "has a defect that is uniformly diagnosable and uniformly lethal or ... has a severe brain abnormality that is uniformly diagnosable."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, led a letter of more than half of Democratic senators calling on Biden to take immediate federal action to strengthen abortion rights.

"He can make medicated abortion more widely available. He can help with money and time off for people to be able to move across state lines. He can consider using federal lands as a place where we can set up abortion clinics and people can go there who need access to abortion," Warren told CNN.

The federal government controls about 63% of the land in the state of Utah, which is a well-established Republican stronghold.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York City, in a Tweet, also urged Biden to establish abortion clinics on federal lands.

Appearing on NBC's Meet the Press program, Ocasio-Cortez elaborated on the letter sent to Biden by Senate Democrats that asks him "to explore opening health care clinics on federal lands in red states in order to help people access the health care and abortion services that they need."

"We also must — and President Biden did indicate that he was going to start looking into expanding abortion access via the pill — as well as educational efforts, henceforth, but also what I believe that the president and the Democratic Party needs to come to terms with is that this is not just a crisis of Roe. This is a crisis of our democracy. The Supreme Court has dramatically overreached its authority," Ocasio-Cortez said.

Ocasio-Cortez said "forcing women to carry pregnancies against their will, will kill them."

Meanwhile, Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams urged congressional Democrats to codify Roe v. Wade into law by casting aside the Senate filibuster rule that enabled Republicans to block an earlier effort.

"We know that the rights to choose should not be divvied up amongst states and that the sinister practice of taking constitutional rights and allowing each state to decide the quality of your citizenship is wrong," Abrams told CNN's "State of the Union" podcast.

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Marjorie Cortez

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