Chris Christie is leaning into his antiabortion credentials


good morning ☀️ Today’s newsletter is a collaboration with Theo Meyer, co-author of The Early 202. Want more from Theo? Sign up for The Early here.

Today’s edition: Sen. Lindsey Graham (RS.C.) plans to introduce a new bill this afternoon imposing a federal limit on abortion. The FDA scheduled its expert advisers to review an application for the first over-the-counter birth control. But first…

Chris Christie teamed up with leading antiabortion activist Marjorie Dannenfelser

In the months before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. wadeprominent antiabortion leader Marjorie Dannenfelser started meeting with Republican governors to talk through how the aftermath of the court’s decision might play out.

She was joined in many of those meetings by an unlikely ally: form New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

Christie was twice elected as a Republican in one of the country’s most liberal states, and he built his 2016 presidential campaign around courting moderate Republican voters in states like New Hampshire.

But he’s also opposed abortion for decades, and he’s leaning into his antiabortion stance as he considers running for the White House again in 2024. His work with a leading antiabortion group could help Christie score points with social conservatives, who play a major role in Republican primary politics. Christie called Dannenfelser during an interview with Axios Alayna Treene in late June, but the extent of their work together has not been previously reported.

  • “He’s just been a fantastic communicator and a great mind in terms of the politics of this, in conversation with governors across the country — but especially with governors who are in purple-y type states,” Dannenfelser, the head of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, told The Early 202. “He was in a deep-blue state as a pro-life governor, vetoed Planned Parenthood funding every single time, and remained in office.”

The politics of abortion have become more difficult than many Republicans anticipated after Roe was overturned. There is now an intraparty battle across the country over how far to restrict abortion access, with divisions over whether to include exceptions for rape and incest spilling out into the public sphere.

Once a governor, always a governor

Christie and Dannenfelser have known each for at least a decade. They decided to team up after talking at the Republican Governors Association meeting last summer, according to Christie.

The pair spoke with at least eight Republican governors across the country in the months before the court struck down Roe to help prepare states to defend antiabortion laws already on the books, answer questions and discuss the impact of a potential ruling overturning the nearly half-century-old constitutional right to an abortion. Dannenfelser has spoken with many more on her own — at least 22 in total. Christie said in an interview last month that he hadn’t spoken with governors about abortion recently, but didn’t rule out getting involved in those discussions again.

Christie said he was considering another presidential campaign and planned to make a decision later this year or early next year. But he said his meetings with governors had nothing to do with his political future.

  • “Whether I was thinking about running for president or not, I would still be helping my fellow governors,” Christie said, adding that he’s continued to raise money and campaign for Republican governors since leaving office.

Still, some Christie critics see his efforts as motivated by an interest in running again.

“I see him doing whatever he can to maintain some kind of national presence,” Rep. Bonnie WatsonColeman (DN.J.), who clashed with Christie over Planned Parenthood funding while he was governor, said in an interview. “Because in his delusional mind, he thinks he’s presidential.”

Christie hasn’t always opposed abortion.

He said his position shifted around 1995 after he heard the heartbeat of his second child at a prenatal appointment during his wife’s first trimester. When he ran for governor, he eschewed advice to embrace abortion rights as former Republican governors Thomas Kean Sr. and Christine Todd Whitman had.

  • “We’d had a number of pro-life Republicans run for the US Senate and lose, so there was the thought that you can’t win unless you’re pro-choice,” said Mike DuHaime, who ran Christie’s 2009 campaign. “He basically said, ‘Well, we’ll find out.’ ”

His vetoes of $7.5 million in state funding for Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics as governor won him acclaim from New Jersey Right to Life and backlash from abortion providers.

Republicans in many of the states in which Christie and Dannenfelser have talked to governors have restricted abortion, with laws already on the books springing into effect once Roe was overturned.

The pair spoke with Govs. Greg Gianforte (Mountain.), spencer cox (Utah), Mark Gordon (Wyo.), Mike Parson (Mo.), Doug Ducey (Ariz.), Kristi L. Noem (SD), Brad Little (Idaho) and Eric Holcomb (Ind.), according to SBA Pro-Life America.

Christie insists he and Dannenfelser weren’t advocating for a particular gestational limit on the procedure. Dannenfelser has repeatedly said she’s helping states be “as ambitious as they can be.”

  • Some of Christie and Dannenfelser’s conversations with governors included discussions of what states could do to help women who might have gotten an abortion before Republicans outlawed the procedure. “How do we address the needs of the women in your state and help them out of the hole that they’re in so that maybe they don’t get back there again?” as Dannenfelser put it in an interview in the days after the Dobbs decision.

But many state legislatures have been out of session since the ruling overturning Roemeaning they haven’t passed new laws bolstering state support for women and children since the Supreme Court’s ruling. And it could be a hard sell, given policies like paid family leave could cost the state. noem recently called for the South Dakota legislature to create a paid family leave policy. Her conversation with Dannenfelser led in part to Noem’s renewed focus on paid family leave, according to her office.

In Utah, Christie and Dannenfelser “encouraged the governor to focus on helping vulnerable women and children,” according to Cox’s office. A spokesperson said the governor recently launched a new Office of Families, which could come with new policy initiatives, but said specifics weren’t yet available.

We tap today: Sen. Lindsey Graham (RS.C.) will introduce a new version of his “pain-capable” bill at a noon news conference. Antiabortion leaders, such as Dannenfelser, will be in attendance. The expectation is that the bill would impose a federal 15-week limit on abortions, but Graham’s staff did not return a request for comment from The Health 202. His previous versions of the bill would have banned abortion at 20 weeks.

FDA to weigh over-the-counter birth control pills this November

Tea Food and Drug Administration has scheduled a joint meeting of its external advisers to review Perrigo‘s application of its daily birth control for over-the-counter use.

The details: The joint meeting will be held Nov. 18 with the agency’s Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee and the Obstetrics, Reproductive and Urologic Drugs Advisory Committee. If approved, Perrigo’s Opill would become the first daily contraceptive pill available over the counter in the United States.

The meeting will be held roughly four months after the company’s affiliate HRA-Pharma filed for a prescription-to-over-the-counter switch for Opill, a progestin-only pill that has been in use with prescription since its approval in 1973.

White House prescriptions

In a bid to recharge the effort, Biden touts ‘cancer moonshot’ in Boston

President Biden’s “cancer moonshot” initiative has been mired by a series of setbacks and struggles in its earliest months. But experts are optimistic that new actions by the administration may have been enough to shift the effort’s trajectory to a better courseThe Post’s Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Laurie McGinley and Matt Aim report.

Researchers are hoping Biden’s speech on the initiative in Boston yesterday will re-energize the effort and convince Americans that the goal of eradicating cancer is not out of reach.

Key context: The moonshot initiative to cut the nation’s death toll from the disease in half over the next 25 years has been hampered by a lack of staff, resources and people in key positions at government health agencies, according to several cancer advocates and experts familiar with the situation .

But now, the administration has tapped candidates to fill vacancies in leadership positions at federal office’s central to the initiative’s goals — including the National Cancer Institute and Biden’s new high-stakes research agency ARPA-H — fueling hope that the moonshot efforts will accelerate. Experts say that — coupled with other legislative wins, like a forthcoming $2,000 annual cap on out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries — signal that the effort’s goal might one day be within reach.

Even still, some experts urged the administration to take a broad view of the moonshotincluding finding ways to help cancer patients based on what is already known about the disease, in addition to pursuing technological advances.

Learn more about the initiative in Biden’s remarks delivered yesterday on the 60th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s famous “moonshot” speech:

  • An Indiana judge won’t hear arguments until next week on a lawsuit seeking to block the state’s upcoming ban on abortion, meaning the new law will take effect Thursday, the Associated Press reports.
  • In the largest strike of private-sector nurses in US historyabout 15,000 nurses in Minnesota walked off the job yesterday to protest understaffing conditions and poor wages at roughly 16 hospitals across the state, The Post’s Lauren Kaori Gurley reports.
  • The US government may have mistakenly awarded more than $1.3 billion in coronavirus aid intended to help shore up small businesses’ finances to foreign applicants, according to a new report from the Small Business Administration‘s Office of the Inspector General. The watchdog’s findings raise new suspicions that the program might have helped fund overseas crime syndicates, our colleague Tony Romm writes.
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has approved the nation’s first Medicaid-covered mobile crisis intervention services program to be launched in Oregon, the agency announced yesterday.

Inside a city’s struggle to vaccinate gay Black men for monkeypox (By Fenit Nirappil | The Washington Post)

Biden turns urgently to critical task of holding the Senate (By Marisa Iati | The Washington Post)

A congressman wasn’t allowed on a flight — because of his wheelchair (By Amanda Morris | The Washington Post)

Thanks for reading! See y’all tomorrow.

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