Biden strives to protect access to reproductive health care

July 8, 2022 — President Joe Biden today signed an executive order aimed at accelerating efforts in several states to expand abortion restrictions following the Supreme Court’s Roe v. pushing Wade back.

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

Out-of-state abortion treatment

Biden has asked the Justice Department to protect women’s rights to travel to states where abortion is legal. Under the order, the attorney general will provide legal protections to women who travel abroad for abortions and to the healthcare providers who offer abortions to those patients.

An interagency task force on access to reproductive health care is being formed to improve reproductive services and increase women’s access to them. 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 told to “ensure all patients, including pregnant women and girls, receive the emergency care they need under federal law,” Biden said.

data privacy

After the fall of Roe v. Wade had many concerns that data from internet searches, social media, and period-tracking apps could be used by law enforcement to track women seeking abortions. Biden said he is calling on the Federal Trade Commission to take action against data brokers selling health information.

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

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

contraceptive protection

The implementing regulation contains safeguards in relation to access to contraceptives. Biden noted that Judge Clarence Thomas, in his concurring opinion in the Roe case, wrote that “the court should reconsider the constitutional right to contraception — the use of contraception — in married couples as well.”

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

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

Doctors fear criminal charges

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

“I don’t care what you represent, it’s outrageous and dangerous,” he said.

Some of the state’s 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 on their own responsibilities and protections under federal law, regardless of what state they practice in, Biden added.

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

The department has already launched a website at ReproductiveRights.gov to help patients know their rights; reminded health insurers of their continuing obligation to cover contraceptive services at no additional cost to consumers as part of the Affordable Care Act; and produced guidance for the public and healthcare providers regarding the protection of medical information when a woman seeks reproductive healthcare.

Alongside the new task force, “I’m asking the Justice Department to do something, similar to the civil rights years, to protect these women who are trying to assert their rights in states where clinics are still open to them.” protect,” Biden said.

reactions

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

“We applaud President Biden’s important move to protect access to safe and legal abortion through an executive branch order,” Amnesty International said said on Twitter. “Yet more needs to be done to ensure women, girls and people who may become pregnant have full access to health care.”

Last week, Nancy Northup, JD, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, urged Biden to declare a public health emergency over access to abortion. Northup, writes in a comment for The Washington Post, said such a declaration would “enable the Department of Health and Human Services to help patients obtain vital abortion treatment wherever they live. According to a statement, HHS could allow out-of-state prescribing and dispensing of abortion drugs for those in states with abortion bans.”

Under today’s executive order, Northup repeated her request.

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

She continued, “We are glad that President Biden is taking action and has directed the Department of Health and Human Services to do everything in its power to expand access to medical abortion.”

Meanwhile, anti-abortion rights group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America criticized Biden’s actions.

“Long gone is the Democratic Party of ‘safe, legal and rare,'” the group said said on Twitter. “President Biden has once again given in to the extreme abortion lobby, determined to use the full weight of the federal government to promote abortion.”

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