HHS to Help Launch National Abortion Hotline
The Biden administration is continuing to seek ways to support abortion care as many states restrict access.
The White House on Wednesday announced a federal agency will help stand up a national hotline to provide counseling to individuals seeking abortions and other family planning services, part of a Biden administration push to expand options as many states restrict abortion access.
The Health and Human Services Department is seeking a grant recipient to create the hotline as part of its Title X program, which offers care to low-income Americans and those without insurance. The call center will provide “nondirective” counseling—meaning it will not offer any prescriptive advice—but it will make referrals upon request.
The hotline will “offer pregnant clients the opportunity to be provided information and counseling” regarding prenatal care and delivery; infant care, foster care or adoption; and pregnancy termination. That will include “neutral, factual information” on each option and referral upon request. Those servicing the hotline will not mention any option about which callers indicate they do not want to receive information.
HHS’ Office of Population Affairs on Wednesday issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity seeking grantees for the initiative. Only organizations currently receiving grants for Title X family planning services will be eligible to apply. The department estimated it will spend $1.5 million on the hotline.
Vice President Kamala Harris convened an Interagency Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access meeting on Wednesday, during which the administration also unveiled its proposed rule to ensure greater privacy protections for those seeking abortions.
“Our administration is fighting on every front to do what we can and what we must to protect the American people and the integrity of our health care system in this country,” Harris said.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said the new grant would “establish a safe and secure national hotline to provide referral services for women in need of accurate information about their legal reproductive health care options.”
The grant recipient will be responsible for establishing and operating the hotline, as well as building and maintaining an accompanying website. It will also develop and maintain a “detailed national list” of referral service sites. HHS did not respond to a request for additional details on the hotline and website.
President Biden has vowed to use all tools available to the federal government to boost abortion access in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade last year. Nearly two-dozen states have moved to ban or severely restrict abortions.
The Justice Department has made clear any federal employees who carry out their duties by providing services related to abortion would be protected from liability. It has also issued a legal opinion making clear the U.S. Postal Service can deliver abortion pills to any state, though that decision could be upended by a recent court ruling that the Food and Drug Administration could not authorize use of the primary abortion medication.
The Veterans Affairs Department is now offering abortions in limited cases, regardless of the laws in the state where the procedure is performed. The Office of Personnel Management clarified that federal employees were entitled to use sick leave to travel for any medical procedure, while the Defense Department issued a memorandum confirming it will continue providing covered abortions to military personnel.