07.21.22

Peters Urges Biden Administration to Protect Americans’ Ability to Seek Abortion Medication, Reproductive Health Care in Canada or Elsewhere

In a Letter to DHS and HHS, Peters Presses Department of Homeland Security & Department of Health and Human Services to Clarify Guidance on the Personal Importation of Abortion Medication and Travel with Abortion Medication

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, today urged the Biden Administration to proactively protect reproductive health care rights for U.S. residents following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last month to overturn Roe v. Wade. In a letter to the Secretaries of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Peters pressed the agencies to clarify guidance on the personal importation of abortion medication and travel with abortion medication.

“I am calling on HHS and DHS to ensure there are no legal obstacles preventing Americans from seeking reproductive health care in Canada or elsewhere, or from bringing safe medications prescribed by foreign health care professionals back into the country,” Peters wrote.

Given Michigan’s close proximity to the U.S.-Canadian border, including the more than 4 million Michiganders living in Metro Detroit, it’s a real possibility for individuals to seek health care, treatment and medication in Canada – which makes clear rules and regulations regarding the importation of medication and travel for reproductive health care services a necessity.

As a result, Peters pressed the HHS Secretary to take swift action to protect access to abortion care, writing: “Considering the urgency of the current moment, it is vital that the Secretary use his existing authority to protect and expand access to this critical health care. The Secretary must issue clarifying guidance on the personal importation of abortion medication, including that it is not widely available domestically and it does not present an unreasonable risk to the individual.”

Peters also called on DHS to support Americans traveling across international borders to seek abortion care, writing: “It is vital that DHS make the requirements around traveling with abortion medications abundantly clear, including which medications are permitted and how much, and what travelers must bring with them to show they have admissible personal use medication.”

Last month, Peters was featured in a USA Today story, speaking about his family’s personal abortion story. Previously, Peters was the first and only U.S. Senator to publicly share his personal family story with abortion – which he shared recently during an ELLE Magazine roundtable and told on the Senate floor prior to voting in support of the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would protect abortion rights at the federal level.

The full letter can be found below, or click here.

Dear Mr. Becerra and Mr. Mayorkas:

I write today to urge you to proactively protect reproductive health care rights for U.S. residents. Millions of Americans are losing access to essential, lifesaving health care and the right to make health care decisions with their doctors. Even in Michigan, a 90-year-old state law threatens to make abortion a felony, even in cases of rape or incest. Such laws will force millions of Americans to seek abortion care elsewhere, including across the U.S. border.

In Michigan, we have the most active crossing on the U.S.-Canadian border; 68,000 travelers cross the Ambassador Bridge every day. Michigan also has the largest metropolitan population in close proximity to Canada—almost 4.4 million Michiganders live within the Metro Detroit Area alone. As highlighted by Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer earlier this month, seeking health care, treatment and medication in Canada is a real possibility for millions of Michiganders, but only if there are clear rules and regulations around doing so.

U.S. law generally does not permit individuals to import or reimport prescription drugs for their own use. However, the Secretary of Health and Human Services has wide discretion to permit importation by an individual for drugs that are clearly for personal use. Abortion medication, which can be used in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, accounts for more than half of all abortions in the United States. Considering the urgency of the current moment, it is vital that the Secretary use his existing authority to protect and expand access to this critical health care. The Secretary must issue clarifying guidance on the personal importation of abortion medication, including that it is not widely available domestically and it does not present an unreasonable risk to the individual. The Secretary must also explore issuing a blanket waiver on the personal importation of abortion medications.

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is at the frontline when it comes to enforcing the Federal Drug Administration’s rulings regarding the importation of prescription drugs for personal use. It is vital that DHS make the requirements around traveling with abortion medications abundantly clear, including which medications are permitted and how much, and what travelers must bring with them to show they have admissible personal use medication. CBP officers must also receive specific training and guidance regarding cases of the importation of abortion medication for personal use, including clear instruction on when there is no need to refer such cases to the FDA.

I am calling on HHS and DHS to ensure there are no legal obstacles preventing Americans from seeking reproductive health care in Canada or elsewhere, or from bringing safe medications prescribed by foreign health care professionals back into the country. For nearly 50 years, Americans had the fundamental right to access abortions and make this extremely personal decision with their doctors. Following the Supreme Court ruling last month, it is critical that the federal government take necessary steps to ensure access to vital health care.

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