The second executive order Biden has signed on reproductive health since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. calf, follows the government’s call for the Department of Health and Human Services to explore all options to assist Americans living in states where access to abortion is severely restricted. The president’s actions came a day after voters in Kansas rejected an attempt to end their state’s protections against abortion.
“[Republicans] I have no idea about the power of American women,” Biden said Wednesday before signing the order. “They found out last night in Kansas.”
Following the Supreme Court decision, Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland both vowed to protect Americans’ ability to cross state lines to request abortions and other reproductive health services.
Biden, who is isolating because he continues to test positive for the coronavirus, signed the executive order ahead of Vice President Harris’ first meeting of an interagency task force on access to reproductive health. The President attended the meeting virtually.
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The executive order also directs Becerra to consider measures to ensure healthcare providers comply with federal anti-discrimination laws to ensure women receive the medically necessary care, which could include providing technical assistance to providers who, according to the Supreme Court’s decision, may not be able to are unclear about their obligations.
Finally, the Order urges Becerra to improve research and data collection on the impact on maternal health.
In early July, Biden signed an executive order directing Becerra to find ways for the government to help expand access to abortion and signaled his intent to protect access to medical abortion or abortion pills.
Biden last month referred to what he called “the horrible, extreme and, I think, so utterly wrong decision of the Supreme Court.”
He added: “The court has made it clear that it will not protect women’s rights – period. Period. After the court made the decision based on reading a document frozen in time in the 1860s, when women didn’t even have the right to vote, the court practically challenges the women of America to go to the ballot box and restore the right to vote, the very rights they just took away.”
However, many activists have criticized Biden for being too slow to act on the decision, especially given that a draft statement was leaked weeks before the official decision. Activists and some Democratic congressmen have called on the administration to declare access to abortion a public health emergency.
In some states, women who need medical care for miscarriages receive delayed care or deny care altogether due to confusion about the law, putting some women’s lives at risk.
A group of more than 80 Democratic House lawmakers last month sent a letter to Biden and Becerra urging them to make abortion a public health emergency. But the White House has reservations about the move because it would provide little additional funding and would likely end up in the Supreme Court, which could use the case to curb the federal government’s emergency powers.
Yasmeen Abutaleb contributed to this report.