Biden to sign executive order to help patients travel for abortion

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President Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order directing his health secretary to consider actions to help patients traveling out of state to have abortions.

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

The executive order, the second Biden has signed on reproductive health since the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, follows the administration’s call for the Department of Health and Human Services to explore all options to support Americans who live in states with severely limited abortion access. The president’s actions came a day after voters in Kansas rejected an effort to remove their state’s abortion protections.

“[Republicans] have no idea the power of American women,” Biden said Wednesday before signing the order. “Last night in Kansas they found out.”

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling, 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 self-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 reproductive health access. The President joined the meeting virtually.

Two long weeks: Inside Biden’s fight to respond to abortion ruling

The executive order also directs Becerra to consider actions to ensure health care providers follow federal non-discrimination laws to ensure women receive medically necessary care, which could include providing assistance. technical assistance to providers confused about their obligations following the Supreme Court’s decision.

Finally, the order asks 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 medical abortion or pills. abortifacients.

Biden referred last month to what he called the Supreme Court’s “terrifying, extreme and, I think, totally wrong” decision.

He added: “The court has made it clear that it will not protect women’s rights – period. Period. After making the decision based on a reading of a document frozen in time in the 1860s when women didn’t even have the right to vote, the court is now virtually challenging American women to go to ballot boxes and restore the rights they have just withdrawn.

But many activists criticized Biden for reacting too slowly to the decision, especially since a draft advisory leaked weeks before the official ruling. 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 attention for miscarriages are getting delayed or denied care altogether due to confusion over the laws, putting some women’s lives at risk.

A group of more than 80 Democratic House lawmakers 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 move because it would provide little additional funding and is likely to end up in the Supreme Court, which could use the case to limit the federal government’s emergency powers.

Yasmeen Abutaleb contributed to this report.

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