One of the oddities of the past two months is that the public received that leaked draft copy and knew the odds were good that the majority would vote to overturn Roe, and yet when the decision did come down, it still felt like a bombshell.
Intriguingly, some progressive Democrats see a president and White House that didn’t seem prepared for this scenario either:
“He made a strong statement the day of. I would have liked to see some more specific actions rolled out,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who leads the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “We all knew this was coming.”
Jayapal spent part of Monday in meetings with Biden officials and encouraged them on the sidelines to do more, urging a look at further agency-level moves to protect abortion access — the sort of action that White House aides say is coming soon, albeit without specifics so far.
If the Biden administration is listening to the likes of Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, it might decide the first and easiest thing it could do would be to “open abortion clinics on federal lands in red states right now.” AOC characterizes this as “the babiest of the babiest of the baby steps.”
But every type of federal land presents its own financial and logistical challenges to this scheme.
For starters, the Hyde amendment bars the use of federal funding to pay for abortions; the only exceptions are cases involving rape or incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger. Any attempt to build abortion clinics on federal land would be in violation of that provision and spur an instant court challenge contending that the Biden administration is breaking federal law.
Second, Congress has not authorized or appropriated any funding to set up new abortion clinics on federal land; diverting funding from some other source without congressional approval would spur another round of lawsuits — to say nothing of, for instance, the U.S. Forest Service complaining that their firefighting budget is being diverted to build abortion clinics.
Third, Pentagon officials will not want lines of civilians traipsing into military bases (which occupy federal land) to get abortions. It is hard to see Americans embracing the idea of setting up abortion clinics within national parks or on Bureau of Land Management properties; even if they did, as Greenwire observes, these stretches of wilderness are not near population centers and aren’t designed to handle the kind of traffic that clinics might generate.
One of the odder bits of speculation is whether Native American reservations in red states could set up abortion clinics, beyond the legal authority of the state governments. It does not appear that anyone advocating this idea bothered to check with Native American tribes to see if they want their reservations turned into sites where non-Natives go to get abortions. As it happens, so far, Native tribes are not enthusiastic about the idea.