Xavier Becerra: US is 'backsliding' with abortion ruling, says health secretary

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US taking a 'backseat' on women's rights - health secretary

The US is going backwards on women's rights in the wake of the Supreme Court's recent abortion ruling, says the health secretary.

Xavier Becerra told the BBC he thinks the US "is taking a backseat, is backsliding" while the rest of the world moves forward.

His comments come as the White House faces mounting pressure to forcefully counter the abortion ruling.

Some 26 states are expected to ban or restrict abortion in the coming weeks.

At least seven states - home to 16 million women of reproductive age - have already moved to bar the procedure since the Supreme Court repealed Roe v Wade on Friday, ending the nationwide guarantee to abortion.

Anti-abortion campaigners are jubilant but on Wednesday, Mr Becerra said the decision curtails women's freedoms.

"It took away the rights that most women of childbearing age grew up knowing."

And it puts the United States at odds with the rest of the developed world, he said. "Look at Ireland. It is hard to believe that America is taking a backseat, is backsliding, when the rest of the world is moving to give women the kinds of rights they should have had a long time ago."

Mr Becerra also said he thought abortion would be a key issue at the US midterm elections in November, echoing comments made by US President Joe Biden.

Mr Biden, a Democrat, has promised to do everything in his power to protect abortion rights, but he has already faced criticism from within his party for not doing enough.

More than 30 Senate Democrats sent a letter to the president on Saturday urging "bold action" on abortion access. "We call on you to take every step available to your administration."

Some suggestions offered by liberal politicians, including Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have already been rejected by the White House.

On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre dismissed the idea of allowing abortion clinics on federal land, like military bases and national parks.

The plan could have "dangerous ramifications" for women, she said.