President Joe Biden is preparing to sign an Executive Order centered on abortion, in direct response to the Supreme Court’s decision striking down the landmark case of Roe v. Wade late last month.
The White House released details on its official website outlining the order, and how it plans to counter the High Court’s recent check — which is only one of several setbacks seen by an administration facing a fast-approaching midterm election.
The webpage is entitled “FACT SHEET” and proceeds to paint the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization as an all-out assault on — and elimination of — abortion rights.
“Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court issued a decision that overturned Roe v. Wade and eliminated a woman’s Constitutional right to choose,” the White House website reads.
The page continues, “This decision expressly took away a right from the American people that it had recognized for nearly 50 years – a woman’s right to make her own reproductive health care decisions, free from government interference. Fundamental rights – to privacy, autonomy, freedom, and equality – have been denied to millions of women across the country, with grave implications for their health, lives, and wellbeing. This ruling will disproportionately affect women of color, low-income women, and rural women.”
The overturning of Roe did not outlaw abortion outright, however, but instead returned the issue back to the individual states. The Court reached this opinion, having not found any basis in the Constitution which guarantees the right to an abortion.
“President Biden has made clear that the only way to secure a woman’s right to choose is for Congress to restore the protections of Roe as federal law,” the White House message continued. “Until then, he has committed to doing everything in his power to defend reproductive rights and protect access to safe and legal abortion.
“Today, President Biden will sign an Executive Order Protecting Access to Reproductive Health Care Services. This Executive Order builds on the actions his Administration has already taken to defend reproductive rights by:
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- Safeguarding access to reproductive health care services, including abortion and contraception;
- Protecting the privacy of patients and their access to accurate information;
- Promoting the safety and security of patients, providers, and clinics; and
- Coordinating the implementation of Federal efforts to protect reproductive rights and access to health care.”
Biden also directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take the following actions and provide a report to the president within 30 days:
- “Protect Access to Medication Abortion. HHS will take additional action to protect and expand access to abortion care, including access to medication that the FDA approved as safe and effective over twenty years ago. These actions will build on the steps the Secretary of HHS has already taken at the President’s direction following the decision to ensure that medication abortion is as widely accessible as possible.
- Ensure Emergency Medical Care. HHS will take steps to ensure all patients – including pregnant women and those experiencing pregnancy loss – have access to the full rights and protections for emergency medical care afforded under the law, including by considering updates to current guidance that clarify physician responsibilities and protections under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA).
- Protect Access to Contraception. HHS will take additional actions to expand access to the full range of reproductive health services, including family planning services and providers, such as access to emergency contraception and long-acting reversible contraception like intrauterine devices (IUDs). In all fifty states and the District of Columbia, the Affordable Care Act guarantees coverage of women’s preventive services, including free birth control and contraceptive counseling, for individuals and covered dependents. The Secretary of HHS has already directed the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to take every legally available step to ensure patient access to family planning care and to protect family planning providers.
- Launch Outreach and Public Education Efforts. HHS will increase outreach and public education efforts regarding access to reproductive health care services—including abortion—to ensure that Americans have access to reliable and accurate information about their rights and access to care.
- Convene Volunteer Lawyers. The Attorney General and the White House Counsel will convene private pro bono attorneys, bar associations, and public interest organizations to encourage robust legal representation of patients, providers, and third parties lawfully seeking or offering reproductive health care services throughout the country. Such representation could include protecting the right to travel out of state to seek medical care. Immediately following the Supreme Court decision, the President announced his Administration’s position that Americans must remain free to travel safely to another state to seek the care they need, as the Attorney General made clear in his statement, and his commitment to fighting any attack by a state or local official who attempts to interfere with women exercising this right.”
In addition, the Commander-in-Chief’s order will “establish an interagency task force,” headed by the HHS director and White House General Policy Council, “on Reproductive Health Care Access.”
It will be tasked with “coordinating Federal interagency policymaking and program development. This Task Force will also include the Attorney General. In addition, the Attorney General will provide technical assistance to states affording legal protection to out-of-state patients as well as providers who offer legal reproductive health care.”
This decision by Biden’s team once again brings the issue of abortion to the forefront and forces it onto the ballot this November — with both Republicans and Democrats remaining confident it will break their way. Polling, however, suggests the latter will suffer historic losses if their agenda items don’t change quickly to be more in line with the American public.
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