U.S. Health Secretary Meets with Planned Parenthood Leaders

Xavier Becerra, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), met with Planned Parenthood leaders today in Portland while on a visit to Oregon.

Secretary Becerra’s visit comes at a pivotal time for access to sexual and reproductive health care. This week a leaked draft of the majority Supreme Court opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization confirms the court is prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade and eliminate the constitutional right to an abortion. This decision would likely lead 26 states to swiftly move to ban abortion, leaving 36 million women without access to safe, legal abortion.

“Patients make their own decisions about their own bodies. That’s their right,” Secretary Becerra said. “I strongly believe in protecting and promoting access to health care — that includes sexual and reproductive health care, and that includes safe and legal abortion care. Abortion remains legal today and patients can access care. The laws we have seen coming out of states that deny care are dangerous.”

“West Coast states are going to become critical points of access for patients who could soon lose access to safe and legal abortion,” said Anne Udall, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette. “We are preparing for this by increasing staff, training, expanding access to telemedicine and expanding access to rural areas where barriers to accessing abortion and other healthcare services have always existed. PPCW is so grateful for Secretary Becerra’s leadership at this critical moment.”

“We’re already seeing out-of-state patients, and we anticipate this will continue to grow if Roe vs. Wade is overturned,” said Lisa Gardner, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon. “Our health centers are expecting a dramatic increase in patient volume; the Guttmacher Institute estimates a potential 234% surge in out-of-state patients seeking essential health care. This situation is unacceptable. We thank Secretary Becerra for his leadership and hope he continues raising awareness about the abortion access crisis.”

“Planned Parenthood believes the federal government can go beyond stopping harm and start making progress for sexual and reproductive health and rights to ensure that all individuals are assured full access to quality care, regardless of race, income, sexual orientation and gender identity,” said An Do, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon. “Today we thanked Secretary Becerra for the Biden-Harris administration’s leadership in ending the domestic gag rule that silences providers in the Title X family planning program; for permanently removing unnecessary barriers to medication abortion; for making strides to address the Black maternal health crisis; and for standing with Planned Parenthood health centers throughout the COVID-19 public health crisis.”

A public servant for three decades, Secretary Becerra is a staunch sexual and reproductive health champion who understands the urgent need to tackle health care policy and related inequities. During his four years as California’s Attorney General — leading the second-largest justice department in the country — he fought back against Donald Trump’s domestic gag rule and defended a state law that required so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” to provide accurate information to patients. In his 24 years in Congress, he fought to expand access to health care by championing the Affordable Care Act.