US President Joe Biden issued an executive order on Wednesday to assist preserve access to abortion in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this summer to repeal the constitutional right to the operation.
According to the president, the order facilitates women travelling out of state for abortions, ensures health care providers follow federal law so women are not delayed in receiving care, and advances research and data collection “to evaluate the impact that this reproductive health crisis is having on maternal health and other health conditions and outcomes.”
“Women’s health and lives are on the line,” Biden added, referring to the “chaos and uncertainty” that has followed the Supreme Court’s decision.
“Emergency medical care being denied to women experiencing miscarriages, doctors uncertain about what they can do to provide for their patients, pharmacists unsure whether they can fill prescriptions that they’ve always filled before, a tragic case of rape survivors, including a 10-year-old girl forced to travel to another state for care,” before signing the order, Biden stated.
The order comes just one day after Kansas voters delivered abortion rights advocates a significant win by defeating a bill that would have empowered the Republican-led legislature to impose further restrictions. Biden celebrated the vote in the White House.
“In a decisive victory, voters made it clear that politicians should not interfere with the fundamental rights of women. And the voters of Kansas sent a powerful signal that this fall the American people will vote to preserve and protect the right and refuse to let them be ripped away by politicians,” Biden stated during the ceremony. “And my administration has their back.”
Biden signed the executive order during the first meeting of the administration’s newly formed Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access, which is made up of officials from throughout the federal government. Cabinet members briefed the President on actions made by their various agencies to protect reproductive rights.
The order directs Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to consider “all appropriate actions to ensure health care providers comply with federal non-discrimination laws so that women receive medically necessary care without delay,” which would include steps to provide technical and legal guidance to health care providers in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision.
According to a CNN report published last month, doctors have struggled to navigate intricate guidelines as states across the country pass increasingly strict abortion restrictions, with experts warning of a “enormous chilling effect” on doctors conducting miscarriage surgeries even when doctors “are confident that what they’re doing is within the letter of the law.”
The order issued on Wednesday also orders HHS to consider procedures to ensure that women travelling across state lines for abortions have access to health care services, including Medicaid. A bill granting women the right to travel across state borders to seek abortions failed to clear the Senate last month after Republicans rejected it.
According to a senior administration official, states would be able to offer care for out-of-state patients seeking abortions under a Medicaid 1115 waiver, which would allow states to waive certain state-based rules in delivering care and help cover “certain costs,” CNN reported.
According to the official, the executive order also urges HHS to enhance research efforts on maternal health data in order “to accurately measure the impact that diminishing access to reproductive health care services has on women’s health.”
When asked how the president’s executive order on reproductive health care will avoid violating the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds to perform abortions, White House press secretary Karine Jean Pierre said the Department of Health and Human Services will “come up with the specifics on how they’re gonna work with states” to provide care through Medicaid waivers.
“So, as you know, Medicaid provides comprehensive health care to women with low incomes – this care includes family planning services such as contraception, non-emergency medical, transportation, and support services like targeted case management, which allows health care providers to help patients coordinate their care,” Jean-Pierre told CNN. “And it also includes abortion care in certain circumstances, as accepted by the Hyde Amendment, which is rape, incest and life of the mother.”
According to Jean-Pierre, the executive order “will cover care that is otherwise part of Medicaid,” such as non-emergency medical travel and other health care services.
“The Hyde Amendment is law and we’re gonna, we’re gonna follow that law,” Jean-Pierre added.
Wednesday’s executive order is Biden’s second since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Biden signed an order last month that he said would guarantee access to abortion treatment and contraception, protect patient privacy, and create an interagency task group to employ “every federal tool available to protect access to reproductive health care.”
However, there is nothing the president can do to restore the countrywide right to an abortion, and Biden has explicitly admitted that his choices for expanding abortion access remain restricted.