US President Joe Biden has signed an executive order on abortion to ease access to medical services for abortion and contraceptives in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion provided by Roe v. Wade.
President Biden stated during a press conference, “We cannot allow an out-of-control Supreme Court, working in conjunction with the extremist elements of the Republican Party, to take away freedoms and our personal autonomy.”
The Friday executive order focuses on the following key issues: protecting medical abortion access, guaranteeing emergency care, strengthening contraception access, providing state-specific resources and information, protecting patient data, and protecting the security of clinics.
The executive order first seeks to protect medical abortion access by directing the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to continue to preserve access to abortions by the use of prescription medication. The order directs Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra to create a report detailing options that will further guarantee access.
The executive order next addresses guidance for physicians and hospitals under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which requires that patients experiencing a medical emergency are provided stabilizing treatment. Updates to the guidance will assist physicians in states where abortions have been banned and who are worried about the legal ramifications after providing lifesaving medical abortions in these states.
The third issue of the executive order is strengthening contraception access, in which the White House has instructed DHHS to protect access to contraception such as emergency contraception and intrauterine devices. DHHS responded with additional funding for family-planning services and holding a meeting with insurance companies to ensure that contraceptive coverage will still be available under the Affordable Care Act.
The executive order also provides resources and information to those who seek a medical abortion, by creating a website providing state-by-state guidance for access.
The executive order further protects patient data from prosecutors who will use tracking apps and internet search data to prosecute those who pursue abortions. DHHS released a guide on how to secure personal data when using mobile apps, and the Federal Trade Commission will weigh efforts to shield how personal data is used.
Finally, the executive order seeks to protect the security of abortion clinics that have been the site of anti-abortion demonstrations and have faced violent threats from “Republican extremists”.
While the executive order fails to include measures that abortion advocates and Democratic lawmakers have suggested, such as a commitment from the US Department of Justice to get involved in lawsuits to defend the right to abortion and the use of Medicaid resources to fund travel for those who need to cross state lines for an abortion, it has been recognized as an important first step toward combatting the infringement of civil liberties.