Biden’s Health Secretary Goes West With a Focus on Reproductive Rights

Xavier Becerra, the secretary of health and human services, said on Friday that he would begin a national tour next week to promote the Biden administration’s efforts to preserve and expand access to abortion.

The tour, which Mr. Becerra will begin on Tuesday in Washington, will take him to states across the West, including Arizona, California, Nevada and New Mexico. Mr. Becerra plans to attend round-table discussions with health care providers, family-planning groups and families who have been affected by restrictive state abortion laws.

In an interview, Mr. Becerra said he would be traveling with good news after the Supreme Court this week unanimously rejected a bid to sharply curtail access to mifepristone, a widely available abortion pill. But, he added, his message would be no less urgent.

“A lot of women are still confused — can they get an abortion?” he said, describing the tour as way to ensure that people have clear and accurate information. “How long are they able to do so? Who can provide it? We want women to know that women still have a lot of rights.”

Mr. Becerra’s tour is not on behalf of President Biden’s re-election campaign. But he will be talking about reproductive rights in states with key races on the ballot in November.

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, the issue has become central to elections, and Democrats are betting abortion rights will help them drive voters to the polls. In Southwestern swing states with large Latino populations, like Arizona and Nevada, they are looking to motivate Latina voters in particular.

Former President Donald J. Trump has said abortion access should be left to the states, and several Republican candidates in swing-state races have aligned himself with him, avoiding mention of a national ban and laying bare the party’s rift over the issue.

The White House has given Mr. Becerra the task of helping to protect access to reproductive care since Democrats and reproductive rights advocates first pressured Mr. Biden to act in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision. In 2022, his agency pledged to work with the Justice Department to ensure access to abortion pills. He has been meeting with patients and providers across the country since then, including stops at Planned Parenthood clinics in St. Louis and Minneapolis.

In the interview on Friday, Mr. Becerra said that many women across the country were still being turned away from emergency rooms, had been forced to go to court to plead for care or had needed to travel hundreds of miles for treatment. Antiabortion activists are still seeking to curb access to contraception and fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization.

“So many people are confused or afraid right now, and it is tough to make good decisions when you are confused or afraid,” he said.

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