A top Justice Department official who spearheaded abortion access efforts will leave in February

Dec 14, 2023, 10:35 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A top Justice Department official who spearheaded legal work on access to abortion as part of a broad set of responsibilities will leave her job in February, Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday.

Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, the third-highest ranking official, also played key roles in efforts to address violent crime and gun violence as well as leading the Reproductive Rights Task Force after Roe v. Wade was overturned, Garland said in a statement.

The Justice Department has defended access to the abortion pill mifepristone, sued over an abortion ban in Idaho and weighed in on an Alabama court case to underline its support for women’s ability to cross state lines to get abortions.

“Vanita’s commitment to the pursuit of justice, and her relentless focus on bringing people together to find common ground, has made her an incredibly effective leader in dealing with some of the most complex challenges facing the American people,” Garland said.

The role she started in 2021 includes oversight of all the department’s civil litigation, from antitrust to natural resources, as well as the grant money that the agency doles out around the country.

Before taking office in 2021, she was as president of a civil rights organization, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. She also led the department’s Civil Rights Division during part of President Barack Obama’s second term and worked at the American Civil Liberties Union.

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A top Justice Department official who spearheaded abortion access efforts will leave in February