Anti-Abortion Movement Details Its 2025 Plans and They’re Terrifying

Groups like the Heritage Foundation and National Right to Life outlined all the things a president could do without passing a single law through Congress.

Anti-Abortion Movement Details Its 2025 Plans and They’re Terrifying
A protester carries a large wooden cross at the annual March for Life at the U.S. Capitol in January. Photo:Shutterstock

Everyone knows abortion is on the ballot this fall, but the anti-abortion movement just gave the most detail yet about what they will push for if a Republican (let’s face it: Donald Trump) wins the presidency. Conservative activists from the Heritage Foundation, National Right to Life Committee, Students for Life, and more were shockingly open in a new Politico story about their plans to restrict and even ban abortion via executive action.

Given how close the last few elections have been, these activists know it will be extremely difficult to pass restrictions in Congress, so they’re working on proposing new rules for federal agencies and drafting executive orders and memos to slash access. Getting federal agencies to take up new rules is a drawn-out process that involves seeking public comment before changes can take effect, unlike executive actions; though groups can still sue over those. Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life, told Politico, “The conversations we’re having with the presidential candidates and their campaigns have been very clear: We expect them to act swiftly.”

Here’s an overview of what the Heritage Foundation’s 2025 Presidential Transition Project wants the next GOP president to do.

Let ERs refuse to perform life-saving abortions

Shortly after the fall of Roe v. Wade, the Biden administration issued guidance telling hospitals that if a pregnant woman’s life is at risk and ending the pregnancy would stabilize her, they have to do it—even in states with abortion bans. That’s because of the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA); federal law supersedes state law. Effectively, the Biden administration said ERs can’t let women die simply because their state has chosen to prioritize the life of the fetus. (Still, Biden’s White House recently rejected an Oklahoma woman’s EMTALA complaint.)

It’s possible the Supreme Court will reverse this guidance before the election even happens; arguments in an EMTALA case out of Idaho are set for April. But if the court upholds it, a GOP administration could quickly reverse course. “That could be something the Trump administration could decide not to enforce and they would not even have to go through a rule-making process,” said Usha Ranji, the associate director for women’s health policy at KFF, formerly known as the Kaiser Family Foundation. “They could just do it.”

Reverse HIPAA privacy protections for abortion

In April 2023, the Biden administration said it was moving to close a loophole in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that lets healthcare providers report patients to the cops if they suspect someone of having an illegal abortion. (The final rule has yet to be released.)

The goal of closing the loophole was to protect people in ban states from criminal probes if they get abortions elsewhere, or if they were among the very small number of people who qualify for an abortion under exceptions like rape, incest, or threat to their life (see ER abortions, above). The rule would also ban insurance companies from sharing health information that would be “used to identify, investigate, sue, or prosecute someone for seeking, obtaining, providing, or facilitating lawful reproductive health care.”

Unsurprisingly, anti-abortion advocates want the next president to reverse it. Politico notes that this change would have to go through the formal agency rule-making process and wouldn’t take effect immediately.

Ban some or all abortions without Congress

Here’s the biggie. The groups want the president to enforce the federal Comstock Act of 1873 to ban abortion pills at the very least—if not all abortions. The law bans the mailing, possession, or sale of “obscene materials,” including items used for abortions, and it was never repealed, though parts of it relating to birth control were in 1971. An expansive interpretation of the Act could end all abortions, as any clinic that gets supplies shipped across state lines could be found in violation of the law.

A president could reanimate Comstock by having its Department of Justice rescind a December 2022 Biden administration memo which said mailing abortion pills doesn’t violate Comstock unless the sender intends for the pills to be used illegally. Comstock would impact every state, including ones that have enshrined the right to abortion in their constitutions via ballot measure. And despite the movement swearing up and down that it doesn’t want to target women and pregnant people, enforcing Comstock would allow the federal government to prosecute them for possessing abortion pills.

In a call with reporters earlier this month, Biden campaign manager Julie Chávez Rodriguez acknowledged that she is aware of the threat of Comstock because it’s in the nearly 900-page Heritage Foundation blueprint. “Trump’s close advisers have actual plans to block access to abortion in every single state without any help from Congress or the courts,” she said. Sure would be swell if Biden actually talked about this threat!

If the president doesn’t swing for the fences with Comstock, a GOP administration could pursue a bunch of other agency rules that would make abortions much, much harder to access if they take effect. They include the following asks of the following agencies:

  • Food and Drug Administration: end telemedicine for abortion pills
  • Federal Trade Commission: penalize and prosecute virtual clinics that prescribe pills to people in ban states
  • Department of Health and Human Services: ban health clinics that get federal family planning funds from referring people for abortions—aka the Title X “gag rule”—and make anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers eligible for the program
  • Environmental Protection Agency: classify ingredients in abortion pills as “forever chemicals” and require that prescribing clinicians collect and dispose of the aborted embryo or fetus, rather than patients flushing their induced miscarriage at home

This is all horrifying, but it’s not enough for a president as unpopular as Biden currently is to merely campaign on the threat that another Trump presidency would pose to abortion access. In the coming weeks and months, he’d be smart to outline a host of executive actions he’d take in a second term, given that codifying Roe is about as unlikely as a Republican Congress having enough votes to pass a law banning abortion. For Biden, it would take winning back the House and at least 5o Senators who support ending the filibuster. The anti-abortion side knows passing legislation is a long shot and is working on alternate plans, and Democrats need to do the same.

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