July 8, 2022 — President Joe Biden today signed an executive order aimed at blocking efforts by several states to expand abortion restrictions following the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade.
The executive order calls on federal agencies to expand access to reproductive care, combat misinformation, and protect the privacy of patients seeking reproductive care.
Out of State Abortion Care
Biden has asked the Justice Department to protect women’s right to travel to states where abortion is legal. Under the order, the attorney general will provide legal protections for women who go abroad for abortions and for health care providers who provide abortions to these patients.
An inter-agency working group on reproductive health services will be established to improve reproductive services and increase women’s access to these services. The task force will be led by the Department of Health and Human Services and work with other agencies to implement Biden’s plan. Biden said the department was told to “ensure that all patients, including pregnant women and girls, have access to the urgent care they need under federal law.”
After the overturn of Roe v. Wade, many feared that data from internet searches, social media and period-tracking apps could be used by law enforcement to prosecute women seeking abortions. Biden said he asked the FTC to “crack down” on data brokers who sell health information.
“Now, when you use a search engine or an app on your phone, companies collect your data,” he said. “They sell it to other companies and even share it with law enforcement.”
The order is designed to strengthen the protection of healthcare information and protect the confidentiality of patients and providers. The Secretary of Health and Human Services will also issue new guidance for healthcare providers and consumers on how to protect reproductive health data.
The executive order includes protections for access to contraceptives. Biden noted that Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his concurring opinion overturning Roe that “courts should reconsider the constitutional right to contraception — to use contraception — even among married couples. in this way.”
Biden cited the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut Supreme Court decision, which overturned a state law that barred married couples from using contraceptives, even in the privacy of their own homes. He also said the Affordable Care Act guarantees coverage for women’s health services in all 50 states, including free birth control.
The order directs the Department of Health and Human Services to seek ways to expand access to reproductive health services such as IUDs, birth control pills and emergency contraception.
Doctors fear criminal charges
Biden said many health care providers fear criminal prosecution in the post-Roy era if a woman miscarries while in their care. For example, he describes a scenario in which a woman goes to the emergency room in any state in the United States while having a life-threatening miscarriage. He noted that some doctors may have been so concerned about treating her criminal charges that they delayed treatment when they called hospital lawyers.
“I don’t care what your position is, it’s outrageous and dangerous,” he said.
Biden said some state laws on abortion are “so extreme” that “they threaten criminal penalties for doctors and health care providers.”
Biden added that physicians need clear guidance on their responsibilities and protections under federal law no matter which state they practice in.
“That’s why this executive order directs the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that all patients — including pregnant women and pregnant girls — receive emergency care,” Biden said.
The department has launched a website to help patients understand their ReproductiveRights.gov; Remind health insurers that they continue to require free contraception to consumers as part of the Affordable Care Act; Privacy of Medical Information When women seek reproductive health care.
In addition to the new task force, “I’m asking the Justice Department, as they did in the civil rights era, to do everything in their power to protect women in these states who seek to exercise their rights in the clinic. Still willing to protect them,” Biden said.
Pro-abortion rights groups thanked Biden for his actions, but many said there was more work to be done.
“We welcome President Biden’s important step in protecting access to safe and legal abortion with executive order,” Amnesty International say on twitter“However, more must be done to ensure adequate access to health care for women, girls and those who may become pregnant.”
Last week, Nancy Northup, J.D., president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Urge Biden to declare a public health emergency in getting an abortion.Northup, in an op-ed for Washington postsaying such a statement would “empower the Department of Health and Human Services to help patients access vital abortion care no matter where they are. HHS can provide out-of-state abortions to people in states that prohibit abortion, according to a statement. Prescription and dispensing.”
Following today’s executive order, Northup repeated her plea.
“Abortion services have been discontinued in nine states, and that number is expected to grow substantially,” she said in a statement. “This public health crisis is going to get worse by the day.”
She continued: “We are pleased that President Biden is taking action and instructing the Department of Health and Human Services to do everything in its power to expand access to medical abortion.”
Meanwhile, the Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America group, which opposes abortion rights, slammed Biden’s actions.
“The ‘safe, legal, rare’ Democratic Party is long gone,” the group say on twitter. “President Biden once again bows to the extreme abortion lobby, determined to fully support the federal government’s push for abortion.”