White House: Health Emergency for COVID Is Out. Health Emergency for Abortion Is In.

President Joe Biden and Health Secretary Xavier Becerra
January 31, 2023

President Joe Biden informed Congress on Monday that he will end the COVID public health emergency just as his administration weighs a new health emergency for abortion access.

Coronavirus emergency orders that first took effect in January 2020 will lapse on May 11, the White House said. But as those orders come to an end, the administration is considering an emergency declaration to ease access to abortions in the wake of the Supreme Court's Dobbs ruling, Axios reported.

"There are discussions on a wide range of measures … that we can take to try to protect people's rights," Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra said.

Biden's and Becerra's announcements come as House Republicans press the administration to scrap the COVID public emergency declaration, which has flooded hospitals with funding and permitted federal employees to work from home. The House is set to vote on a bill this week that would bring an immediate end to the emergency declaration, which Becerra earlier this month extended into April.

"Do you realize that 47 percent of the federal employees are still not in for work?" House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) told Fox Business. "We're going to pass that bill this week that brings those federal employees back to work to provide the service … that the taxpayers are paying them for."

Becerra extended the pandemic emergency just months after Biden said during a September interview that the pandemic "is over." The Biden administration asked a federal court this month to reverse a decision that barred the CDC from mandating masks on public transportation.

A public health emergency for abortions would "free up resources to help people access abortions," Axios reported. Health emergency declarations are usually reserved for natural disasters and disease outbreaks.

Beccera said that he has "the ability to make a declaration" surrounding abortion but that there has not yet been a "full assessment."