By Breanna Reeves
President Biden has clarified that the only way to restore nationwide reproductive rights previously protected under Roe v. Wade is through Congress, but “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. To this end, he took steps to safeguard those rights by issuing an executive order on Friday, July 8.
Under the Executive Order Protecting Access to Reproductive Health Care Services, Biden aims to protect access to FDA-approved abortion medication, expand access to emergency contraception and convene volunteer lawyers to take on legal issues that are expected arise. Biden instructed Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra to submit a report within 30 days that outlines how to protect reproductive health care services.
“I share President Biden’s unwavering commitment to protecting access to reproductive health care, including abortion care – no matter who you are or where you live,” Becerra said in a statement. “At his direction, HHS initiated concrete action to protect access to these critical health care services, as well as the privacy and legal rights of patients and providers.”
Becerra stated that HHS is working closely with the Attorney General and other federal institutions to guarantee that patients and providers are supported. After the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on June 24, Becerra announced that HHS will take action to protect reproductive health care access by: increasing access to medical abortion, protecting patients and providers from discrimination, protecting emergency abortion care, ensuring family planning resources for providers and strengthening family planning care.
With the president’s executive order, Becerra and HHS are tasked with taking additional actions that will address protecting access to reproductive health care services and those who are seeking services from all sides.
The executive directs:
- Health and Human Services to identify ways to bolster education about access to reproductive health care services, which includes sharing information about how to obtain free or low cost reproductive services and awareness about reproductive rights.
- Health and Human Services to identify measures to ensure that all patients “receive the full protections for emergency medical care afforded under the law, including by considering updates to current guidance on obligations specific to emergency conditions and stabilizing care under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act.”
- The Attorney General and the Counsel to the president to assemble a meeting of attorneys and public interest organizations to encourage pro bono lawyers to provide legal assistance to those who are lawfully seeking reproductive health care services throughout the country.
- The Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security to consider actions to address the safety of patient privacy, providers and third parties, as well protect the security of clinics and other establishments that provide access to reproductive and related health care services.
- The Chair of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to consider taking appropriate actions to protect consumer privacy rights with regard to information about reproductive health care services.
Biden emphasized the importance of voting in order to restore Roe v. Wade and secure nationwide reproductive rights. Before he signed the executive order, Biden addressedreporters in the Roosevelt room.
“So the choice is clear. If you want to change the circumstances for women and even little girls in this country, please go out and vote,” Biden said. “The challenge is: Go out and vote. Well, for God’s sake, there’s an election in November. Vote, vote, vote, vote. Consider the challenge accepted, Court.”