Biden to sign executive order to help patients travel for abortions

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COMMENTARY

President Biden will sign an executive order Wednesday to direct his health secretary to consider actions to help patients who travel overseas for abortions.

The travel-related provision in the order would call on Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to consider inviting states to apply for Medicaid waivers when treating patients who cross state lines for reproductive health services .

A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity to view Biden’s actions, declined to share details of what a waiver would look like, but said it would target low-income women served by Medicaid and would help cover some of the costs.

Second Executive Order Biden Will Sign on Reproductive Health Since Supreme Court Overturn Roe v. Wade, following the administration’s call for the Department of Health and Human Services to review all options to support Americans living in states that have severely limited access to abortion. The president’s actions also come a day after Kansas voters rejected an effort to repeal their state’s abortion protections.

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

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

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

The executive order also directs Becerra to consider actions to ensure that health care providers comply with federal nondiscrimination laws to ensure that women receive necessary medical care, which may include providing technical assistance to health care providers. confused about their obligations after the Supreme Court decision.

Finally, the order calls on Becerra to improve research and data collection on maternal health outcomes.

In early July, Biden signed an executive order directing Becerra to identify ways the administration can help expand abortion access and signaled his intention to protect access to abortion drugs, or the abortion pill.

Biden last month referred to what he called “the terrible, extreme and, I think, completely 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 making the decision based on reading a document that was frozen in time in the 1860s, when women didn’t even have the right to vote, the court is now practically daring America’s women to go to the polls and restore many of their newly acquired rights. removed.”

But many activists have criticized Biden for reacting too slowly to the decision, especially given that a draft opinion came out weeks before the official decision. Activists and some Democratic members of Congress have called on the administration to declare abortion access a public health emergency.

In some states, women who need medical care for miscarriages are getting care delayed or denied it altogether due to confusion over the laws, putting some women’s lives at risk.

A group of more than 80 House Democrats sent a letter to Biden and Becerra last month urging them to make abortion a public health emergency. But the White House has reservations about the measure because it would provide little additional funding and is likely to 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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