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Biden signs executive order supporting travel for abortions

Biden signs executive order supporting travel for abortions

The order is the latest attempt by the White House to respond to the overturning of Roe v. Wade

  • Protestors carry signs in Tucson on May 3, 2022, to rally against the Supreme Court decision reversing Roe v. Wade.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comProtestors carry signs in Tucson on May 3, 2022, to rally against the Supreme Court decision reversing Roe v. Wade.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday aiming to protect people crossing state lines to get an abortion, the second presidential order Biden’s made regarding abortion access since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade earlier this summer.

The latest order directs the Department of Health and Human Services to review potential actions to ensure abortion access for Medicaid users and people traveling out of state for reproductive care.

Medicaid currently only covers all or part of the cost of medically necessary abortions in 16 states and Medicaid patients who go out of state to receive an abortion do not receive financial support from their health care plans.

Similar to the president's last executive order, Wednesday’s announcement is vague on the details and what specific policies it could lead to. It calls on Health and Human Services to consider steps to ensure health care providers are complying with federal nondiscrimination laws. 

The order says these steps could include clarification and assistance to providers who may be confused about their roles in the wake of the June 24 Supreme Court ruling and the subsequent state laws that have come to define the new landscape of abortion.

Biden signed the executive order during the first meeting of the Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access, an interagency panel he formed last month to create federal strategies on reproductive care in the fallout of the high courtdecision which overturned the constitutional right to abortion established nearly 50 years ago in Roe.

Since the ruling, states have enacted bans on abortion and heavily restricted access to pregnancy termination.

"I believe Roe got it right," Biden said during a virtual signing of the executive order Wednesday. "It's been the law for close to 50 years. And I commit to the American people that we're doing everything in our power to safeguard access to health care, including the right to choose that women had under Roe v. Wade, which was ripped away by this extreme court."

Last month, Biden signed a different executive order focused on safeguarding abortion access.

That move triggered a lawsuit from Texas, with state officials arguing a policy calling for the Department of Health and Human Services to affirm that health care providers can provide abortions in life-threatening scenarios was beyond the scope of executive power.

"The law requires providers to offer stabilizing treatment to prevent a patient's condition from placing that patient in jeopardy, serious jeopardy, or at risk of serious impairment or dysfunction of bodily functions, or any bodily organ," Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said during the virtual task force meeting Wednesday. "Providers may not delay care until a woman is in a life-threatening condition. We all know that and we know that delayed care can threaten lives, impair essential bodily functions and even compromise a woman's ability in the future to carry a healthy pregnancy to term."

Biden's latest presidential action comes just weeks after legislation that would have created a statutory right to travel across state lines to receive an abortion passed the House but failed to gain traction in the Senate.

The president praised the voters in Kansas who on Tuesday rejected a constitutional amendment that would have empowered state lawmakers to restrict or ban abortions in the GOP-led state.

"The court practically dared women in this country to go to the ballot box and restore the right to choose that the court stripped away after 50 years," Biden said.

He added, "The voters of Kansas are a powerful signal that this fall, the American people will vote to preserve and protect the right and refuse to let them be ripped away by politicians."

On Tuesday, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Idaho's near-total abortion ban, arguing the restrictions violate the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which creates national standards for care in emergency health situations.

"Aa patient comes into an emergency room with a medical emergency jeopardizing the patient's life or health, a hospital must provide the treatment necessary to stabilize that condition. This includes abortion when that is the necessary treatment," Attorney General Merrick Garland said during the task force meeting.

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