Biden to Sign Another Executive Order on Access to Abortion

President Joe Biden on Wednesday will sign a second executive order intended to improve access to abortion services more than five weeks after the US Supreme Court allowed states to largely put them off limits.

The order will direct the secretary of Health and Human Services to consider actions to help patients travel outside their states for abortions using funds from Medicaid, a move which conservatives will likely challenge in the courts.

The Hyde Amendment prevents the use of federal funds for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or when a woman’s life is at risk. A senior administration official said the White House did not believe using Medicaid funds for travel violated the amendment.

The order also instructs Health and Human Services ensure that health care providers comply with existing federal anti-discrimination laws so that pregnant people receive necessary medical care without delay. Finally, it asks HHS to enhance its collection of data on maternal health at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The order is likely to have little immediate effect. The travel provision will likely be held up by courts; the anti-discrimination proposal must go through a regulatory process.

Biden has come under intense criticism over his response to the court’s ruling in late June that overruled the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision enshrining the right to an abortion. While the president has said he sympathizes with people denied access to the procedure in states where it’s being outlawed, he maintains that there’s little he can do unless voters elect more members of Congress who support abortion rights.

What is missing from the order is any mention of declaring a public health emergency for abortion rights, a decision that progressive lawmakers have been pushing Biden to make. A majority of senior White House staff oppose the idea because they think it would do little to unlock new money or power and instead, they view it primarily as a symbolic move to appease the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

Biden signed an order in early July to codifiy efforts taken by health officials following the high court’s ruling that were intended to provide resources for women seeking abortions. But it didn’t restore the availability of abortion in states that have largely outlawed the procedure.

Read More: DOJ Sues Idaho in First Legal Action Against Abortion Bans

The president plans to sign the latest order on Wednesday at the first meeting of a task force on reproductive health care access.

The Justice Department filed its first post-Roe lawsuit on abortion rights this week, suing the state of Idaho over its abortion prohibition.

To contact the reporters on this story:
Nancy Cook in Washington at ncook40@bloomberg.net;
Shira Stein in Arlington at sstein51@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
John Harney at jharney2@bloomberg.net

© 2022 Bloomberg LP All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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