President Joe Biden on Friday signed an executive order aimed at protecting access to reproductive health services in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion.
The executive order attempts to safeguard access to medication abortion and emergency contraception, protect patient privacy, launch public education efforts as well as bolster the security of and the legal options available to those seeking and providing abortion services.
“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. Until then, he has committed to doing everything in his power to defend reproductive rights and protect access to safe and legal abortion,” the White House said in a statement on Friday.
There is no action the President can take to restore the nationwide right to an abortion in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling. Biden has acknowledged publicly his options to expand abortion access remain limited, and has called on the American people to elect more members of Congress in November’s midterm elections who will support federal legislation protecting abortion access.
The White House has dismissed several progressive ideas to protect abortion access, including allowing abortion providers to work from federal property in states where the procedure is banned. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said using federal lands for abortion services would have “dangerous ramifications.” The White House has also reiterated the President does not support expanding the Supreme Court, as many progressives have pushed for.
Here’s what’s in the executive order that was signed Friday:
- The President is directing Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to submit a report to him within 30 days on the actions his department is taking on the matter. The President is also establishing an interagency task force on reproductive health care access, which will include Attorney General Merrick Garland.
- HHS will take action to expand access to emergency contraception and long-acting reversible contraception like intrauterine devices, or IUDs, according to the White House. The department is tasked with ensuring patients have access to “the full rights and protections for emergency medical care afforded under the law” and the President has directed Becerra to consider updating guidance that clarifies physician responsibilities and protections under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act. Garland has also issued a statement saying states cannot ban Mifepristone – a medication used to end early pregnancy that has FDA approval.
- The department will ramp up outreach and public education efforts on abortion “to ensure that Americans have access to reliable and accurate information about their rights and access to care.”
- In preparation for expected legal challenges ahead, the attorney general and the White House counsel are convening private pro bono attorneys and organizations to provide more legal representation to those lawfully seeking abortions as well as those providing them.
- The executive order also focuses on protecting patient privacy. The President is asking the chair of the Federal Trade Commission to consider taking steps to protect consumer privacy when seeking information about reproductive health care services. Biden has also directed Becerra, in consultation with Garland and the FTC, to consider options to address deceptive or fraudulent practices and protect access to accurate information.
- The President is directing HHS to consider additional actions to safeguard sensitive information related to reproductive health care, including under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Becerra has directed the HHS Office for Civil Rights to issue new guidance related to the HIPAA Privacy Rule to clarify that doctors and medical providers are in most cases not required – and in many instances not permitted – to disclose the private information of patients, including to law enforcement. The office will also issue a guide for consumers on how to protect personal data on mobile apps.
- The order also looks to ensure the safety of those seeking as well as providing abortion care, including by protecting mobile clinics that have been deployed to provide care for out-of-state patients.