Biden takes steps to protect access to reproductive health care

July 8, 2022 – President Joe Biden today signed an executive order seeking to curb efforts in several states to expand abortion restrictions following the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade.

The executive order calls on federal agencies to expand access to reproductive care, address disinformation and protect the privacy of patients seeking reproductive care.

Out-of-state abortion care

Biden has asked the Justice Department to protect women’s right to travel to states where abortion is legal. Under the order, the attorney general will provide legal protections to women who leave the state for abortions and the health care providers who provide abortions to those patients.

An interdepartmental task force on access to reproductive health care will be formed to improve reproductive services and increase women’s access to these services. The task force will be led by the Department of Health and Human Services and will work with other agencies to implement Biden’s plan. The department is being told to “ensure that all patients, including pregnant women and girls, receive the emergency care they need under federal law,” Biden said.

Data Privacy

After the destruction of Roe v. Wade, many were concerned that data from internet searches, social media and period-tracking apps could be used by law enforcement to prosecute women who want to have abortions. Biden said he is asking the Federal Trade Commission to “take action” against data brokers who sell health information.

“Right now, when you use a search engine or the app on your phone, companies are collecting your data,” he said. “They sell it to other companies, they even share it with law enforcement.”

The order aims to strengthen the protection of healthcare information and to protect the confidentiality of patients and healthcare providers. The Secretary of Health and Human Services will also issue new guidelines for healthcare providers and consumers on how to protect reproductive health data.

Contraception protection

The implementing decree includes protection with regard to access to contraceptives. Biden pointed out that Judge Clarence Thomas, in agreeing with the case overturning Roe, wrote that “the court should reconsider the constitutional right to contraception — to use contraception — even among married couples.”

Biden cited the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut Supreme Court decision that overturned a state law that prohibited married couples from using contraceptives even in the privacy of their own homes. He also said the Affordable Care Act guarantees insurance coverage for women’s health services, including free birth control, in all 50 states.

The order instructs Health and Human Services to find ways to expand access to reproductive health services such as IUDs, birth control pills and emergency contraception.

Doctors fear criminal prosecution

Biden said many health care providers fear criminal charges in the post-Roe era if a woman miscarries while in their care. For example, he described a scenario where a woman in any state in the US enters the emergency room while suffering a life-threatening miscarriage. He pointed out that some doctors may be so concerned about the criminal charges for treating her that they delay treatment while calling the hospital attorney.

“I don’t care what your position is, it’s outrageous and it’s dangerous,” he said.

Some state abortion laws “are so extreme,” Biden said, that “they have increased the threat of criminal penalties for doctors and health care providers.”

Physicians need clear guidance about their own responsibilities and protections under federal law, regardless of which state they work in, Biden added.

“Therefore, this executive order instructs the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that all patients — including pregnant women and girls who are pregnant — receive emergency care,” Biden said.

The department has already launched a website to help patients know their rights on ReproductiveRights.gov; reminded health insurers of their continued demand to cover contraceptive services at no additional cost to consumers as part of the Affordable Care Act; and created guidelines for the public and health care providers regarding privacy of medical information when a woman seeks reproductive health care.

In addition to the new task force, “I am asking the Department of Justice, just as they did in the civil rights years, to do everything in their power to protect these women who want to exercise their rights in states where clinics are still there.” always open to protect them,” Biden said.

reactions

Abortion rights groups thanked Biden for the actions, but many said more needs to be done.

“We welcome President Biden’s critical step to protect access to safe and legal abortion through executive order,” said Amnesty International said on Twitter† “Still, more needs to be done to ensure that women, girls and people of childbearing potential have full access to health care.”

Last week, Nancy Northup, JD, chair of the Center for Reproductive Rights, urged Biden to declare a public health emergency over access to abortion. Northup, writing in an op-ed for The Washington Postsaid such a statement would “give the Department of Health and Human Services the power to help patients receive vital abortion care wherever they live. According to a statement, HHS would allow the prescription and dispensation of abortion drugs outside of the state.” for people in states with a ban on abortion.”

After today’s executive order, Northup reiterated her plea.

“Abortion services have already been discontinued in nine states and that number is expected to grow dramatically,” she said in a statement. “This public health crisis is going to get worse by the day.”

She continued: “We are pleased that President Biden is taking action and directing the Health and Human Services Department to do everything it can to expand access to drug abortion.”

Meanwhile, the Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America group, which opposes abortion rights, denounced Biden’s actions.

“Long ago, the Democratic Party of ‘safe, legal and rare’” the group said on Twitter† “President Biden has once again yielded to the extreme abortion lobby, determined to give the federal government’s full weight behind promoting abortion.”