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Interview With Xavier Becerra, Health And Human Services Secretary: HHS Will Use Every Lever To Protect Abortion Access; Zelenskyy Accuses Russia Of Striking Busy Shopping Mall; Amtrak Train Derailed In Western Missouri, Injuries Reported. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired June 27, 2022 - 15:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: One telehealth company tells CNN that the demand for medication for abortion has more than doubled since the Supreme Court's decision Friday that overturned Roe v. Wade.

President Biden is pledging to make sure that women can get access to abortion medications that are approved by the FDA even in the states where abortion is now banned.

Let's bring in Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. Secretary, thank you so much for being with us.

I understand that you were in Missouri I think at a Planned Parenthood when this Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade came down, which I'm sure was an intense moment all around.

And right after wards, you said that HHS will use every lever to protect access to abortion care. So, what are those levers that are available?

XAVIER BECERRA, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Alisyn, you're right, I was there in Missouri at what was the last abortion clinic in Missouri, and it was a fateful day.

But what we will do at the federal level is make sure we continue to use our federal authorities to make sure women have access to the health care they need. That means abortion care, that could be contraceptive coverage.

So, we'll continue to make sure that something like medication abortion is made available to all women, regardless of what state they're in.

CAMEROTA: Well, I want to ask you specifically, about those so-called abortion pills because we also heard from the Attorney General, Merrick Garland who said that, you know, the FDA has approved this, has declared them safe and that they will made sure that women in all states can still have access to this medication.

But then we hear from Governor Kristi Noem, for instance, in South Dakota, who said on Sunday that her state is working to ban telehealth appointments between a doctor and a patient where that medication could be prescribed. So, who wins?

BECERRA: Well, to the degree that a state is properly and lawfully exercising its prerogatives, its authorities in health care, I would think that they will be able to move forward, but to the degree that there are --

CAMEROTA: Just so I understand, so South Dakota will be able to ban --

BECERRA: No, I didn't say that.

CAMEROTA: -- for all intents and purposes. But if they're banning the telehealth appointment where a doctor prescribes it, how will patients get access to it?


BECERRA: So, as I said, they have to act under color of law. They can't just do anything they wish, they have to do it lawfully. We'll make sure that any authorities that we have at the federal level, that make something, whether it's telehealth or medication abortion services available will continue forward.

The state of North Dakota like any other state has a right to exercise legally whatever authority it has on health but doesn't have a right to supersede authorities that the federal government might have under law when it comes to health care services, including abortion and contraception services.

CAMEROTA: So, in other words, you believe today that women in America regardless of what state they live in will be able to have access to this so-called abortion pill.

BECERRA: Today women in America have access to abortion -- medication abortion. We will do everything in our power to make sure that they continue to have access to that service and that kind of medical care that they need.

CAMEROTA: One of the strange ironies of all of this is that some people are -- at the same time that abortion is being banned in many states, they're talking about restricting access to contraception.

You would think that contraception needs to be increased if you're going to outlaw and ban abortions. So, what are you doing on that front.

BECERRA: Now, Alisyn, you seem to be talking logically, which doesn't seem to be what guides the Supreme Court these days, and so what I will simply say to you is, I'm not experienced in most of my lifetime a situation where the Supreme Court is actually stripping rights that Americans have.

And so, we're not going to be in that mode of joining with the Supreme Court if we don't need to. And so, we'll continue to make sure that women have access to medication abortion and the rights that they need to exercise their own rights to care for their own body healthcare wise. CAMEROTA: We're also hearing activists say -- we had one on our program earlier -- that they will be going after doctors, abortion providers, who grant abortions to women who have say, crossed state lines to obtain one. What can the federal government do about that?

BECERRA: Well, you know, this is what makes it very difficult to understand what the Supreme Court was saying. It was the Supreme Court saying it was opening the door for states to regulate a woman's body, yet not willing to allow -- to stop states from regulating guns and assault weapons.

If that's the case it seems upside down that we should be depriving women of access to health care. And what we're going to do is make sure that -- just like any common sense action would require. We'll make sure that women have access to the care that they need wherever they are. And we'll do it legally following authorities that we have.

We understand if the Supreme Court has issued a decision as wrong as it might be, but we'll do what we have to do to make sure women like any other Americans have access to the care that they need.

CAMEROTA: But they don't. Secretary, I don't understand. There are women in it sounds like about half the states of the U.S. right now are in the process of banning it or will soon. They're not going to have the care that they need or desire, so what will you do?

BECERRA: Well, we're not going to try to speak for the states that are moving to deny women access to the kind of care that they need. What we're going to do is work with those women, work with providers to make sure that at the end of the day women access the care that they need.

It may mean that we have to see a woman jump through hoops that we would have never have expected. But we will do whatever we can. We'll go to those outer limits to make sure that we're working with Americans to get the care that they need.

CAMEROTA: How will you make sure that doctors are not prosecuted?

BECERRA: That's another great question. Once again, where we have authorities, we will do all we can to protect not just the patient, not just the woman, but the provider as well. We will have to take a look at what the Dobbs Decision means as it plays out.

No doubt, a lot of times we're going to all end up in court, but that doesn't stop us from, Alisyn, from trying to make sure that we allow Americans to exercise their rights, whether it's the patient or whether it's the doctor.

CAMEROTA: How about the suggestion that's been floated by Senator Elizabeth Warren about carving out federal lands for abortion providers. Is that possible?

BECERRA: There are a number of conversations on any number of options that can be out there. We will certainly take a close look as we made a commitment some time

ago, months ago, as we were planning for whatever might come from the Supreme Court, we will take a look at every option to make sure a woman has access to the care that she needs?

CAMEROTA: Have you looked at that one?

BECERRA: We're not prepared to say what that means. Yes, all of those things have been put on the table, but again, we have to make sure that we're assessing what the Dobbs Decision says and is what our authorities are. Again, we're not looking to do something that's not according to law.


We'll act according to law. As sometimes as crazy and as incongruous as the new laws might be under this Supreme Court, but we will find every way we can to make sure Americans access the care they need.

Secretary Becerra, thank you for your time, we appreciate.

BECERRA: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Now to this. Ukraine says a Russian air strike targeted a mall with thousands of people inside. We're live on the ground with update next.



CAMEROTA: A source tells CNN, the U.S. plans to announce the purchase of a new missile defense system for Ukraine. President Zelenskyy addressed G7 leaders virtually today pleading with them for more weapons to help end the war on his country by the end of the year.

He's also accusing Russia by bombing a crowded shopping mall in central Ukraine today. CNN's Phil Black is in Kramatorsk, Ukraine. So, Phil, what do we know about this mall attack.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn so far, the number of people killed in this attack sits at 13. It's been climbing through the day, through the evening.

Local officials say it is too soon to say that that is the final number, though, and many dozens of others have been seriously injured. We know that this location, Kramatorsk, is a long way from any of the front lines of Russia's war here in Ukraine.

And that's the point that President Zelenskyy, Ukraine's president makes. That this is -- well, it was not a strategic target. It was not a risk to Russian forces in any way. This was just a site where many people were effectively going about their everyday lives.

He thinks there were around a thousand people in the mall at the time of the strike. The pictures immediately showing the aftermath are pretty terrifying.

One man has somehow videoed his attempt to escape from the complex. You here panicked screams, you see -- well, visibility is almost zero because there is just simply a wall of dusk and smoke. And then from other video, you see that fire took hold of the building very, very quickly.

The timing of this is pretty extraordinary in a way. Because it adds powerful weight to an argument that Zelenskyy was making to some of his closest allies. Including President Biden during a virtual meeting, just hours before this took place.

It's an argument he's been making a lot lately. And that is one that says Ukraine needs more sophisticated antimissile systems from its allies because it believes that Russia has stepped up its air campaign in a very noticeable way.

That said, it's been pretty intense from the very earliest days of this war. As you touched on there, and an announcement is expected from the Biden administration that it is going to provide some sort of new antimissile capability, and that will be welcomed.

But the details will be scrutinized very closely because Russia has shown repeatedly that it has the will and the ability to hit targets, often civilian targets all across this country at pretty much anytime it chooses -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Phil Black, those videos just look apocalyptic. Thank you very much for reporting from there.

So, we continue to follow this breaking news out of Missouri. We have new video of a train that has derailed. And we're going to speak to a person who took this video about what they're seeing next.



CAMEROTA: We're following breaking news of that Amtrak train where -- which it derailed in western Missouri. This is new video just in to CNN. Approximately 243 passengers were on board this train.

Amtrak says there are injuries. The train was traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago when it apparently struck a dump truck at a public crossing.

Robert Nightingale is a passenger who was on board. He shot this video that you were just looking at and he joins us on the phone now. Robert, number one, what happened and are you OK?

ROBERT NIGHTINGALE, PASSENGER ON DERAILED AMTRAK TRAIN (via phone): I fine thanks. I'm sitting under a tree at a local school here in Macon County, Missouri.

CAMEROTA: What happened? What did you see happening? NIGHTINGALE: I was in my sleeper and I was dozing off. The train was running a bit late so I decided to take a nap before my lunch reservation. And then I heard like a -- I don't know what I heard. And then everything started to go in slow motion.

Like I can see over the tracks. And the (INAUDIBLE) go back and forth, back and forth and then it started to go -- tumble on my side with the room.

CAMEROTA: Robert, that's very scary. Sorry, I lost you for a second there.

NIGHTINGALE: I saw the train coming and I was afraid the windows were going to smash, so I shimmied myself up against the exit to the room. And we slid and then we came to a stop and it was silent.

I don't know a mile and then I heard some girls crying from the next room and I got myself together, grabbed my backpack and my computer and opened up my door and climbed into the hallway and then climbed up into room that was next to me, which was now above me.

And then I saw an opening and a family getting out, I got out. And then I just sat on the roof.

I can imagine, Robert, I see I think a video of what looks like your legs while you're sitting there in shock. I know this is really hard to talk about still, because it just happened. There were apparently 243 people on board.

Do you know if anyone -- do you know if everyone survived? Could you tell in the chaos afterwards?

NIGHTINGALE: The hardest part when I heard was the people in the dining car and the observation deck because they didn't have barriers to step onto get out and that was bad. All the cars were knocked over except the main engine. So, the latter cars got the worst of it and the center cars.

CAMEROTA: And did they get out?

NIGHTINGALE: There were ambulances all over.


They were bringing stretchers to the train and now there ambulances here at the school shifting people inside the school. And everyone's been real nice. All the local people have come out.

Yes, I know this is really hard to talk about, Robert. I mean, it just happened.


CAMEROTA: And so, you don't know if anyone was killed?

NIGHTINGALE: I don't know. Except the gentleman who was driving the cement truck or whatever, his wife came running up to the scene. She wanted to see him. And they said no. That was bad.

CAMEROTA: Yes. It's devastating, Robert. We really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us and just the initial -- just your initial thoughts on this horrible derailment that you just lived through. Robert, please take care of yourself.

We really appreciate seeing your video and talking with you. Take care of yourself and obviously, we'll check back with you. Thank you very much for being on with us.

"THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts after a very short break.