Biden to sign executive order to help patients travel for abortions



President Biden will sign an executive order on Wednesday directing his health secretary to consider measures to support patients traveling abroad for abortions.

The travel-related provision in the order will prompt Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to consider inviting states to apply for Medicaid exemptions when treating patients crossing state lines for reproductive health services.

A senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to preview Biden’s actions, declined to share details of what a waiver would look like, but said it would target low-income women affected by Medicaid and help cover certain costs.

Executive order, second Biden will sign off on reproductive health since 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 also come a day after voters in Kansas rejected an attempt to end their state’s protections against abortion.

Following the Supreme Court decision, Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland both vowed to protect Americans’ ability to cross state lines to seek abortions and other reproductive health services.

Biden, who is isolating because he continues to test positive for the coronavirus, is expected to sign the executive order before Vice President Harris’ first meeting of an interagency task force on reproductive health access.

Two Long Weeks: Inside Biden’s Battle to Respond to the Abortion Ruling

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 horrific, 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 treatment late or are denied treatment 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.


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