Biden signs executive order authorizing federal funds for abortion patients traveling across state lines
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Biden signs executive order authorizing federal funds for abortion patients traveling across state lines

US President Joe Biden Wednesday signed an executive order protecting the right of American women to travel across state lines for abortion care and directing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to protect abortion and reproductive healthcare access. Biden signed the order in a video call to the first meeting of the Interagency Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access, established after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and led by Vice President Kamala Harris.

The move signaled the administration’s response to growing outrage over the Supreme Court decision and builds on a previous executive order signed July 3 protecting access to abortion and reproductive health care. 

In his remarks before signing, Biden said:

I believe Roe got it right. It’s been the law for 50 years. I am committed to the American people and we’re doing everything in our power to safeguard access to healthcare including the right to choose that women had under Roe v Wade which was ripped away by this extreme court.

The order directs Secretary of HHS Xavier Becerra to consider using Medicaid funds to protect women engaging in interstate travel to obtain abortions and reproductive healthcare. Reproductive and women’s groups have been calling for Medicaid to protect travel since the Dobbs decision turned the nation into a patchwork of states with varying legalities of abortion and reproductive health services.

The order also directs HHS to enforce compliance with federal non-discrimination laws, including clarifying these laws to “health care providers who may be confused or unsure of their obligations in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs.” Previously HHS issued a guidance warning pharmacies that refusing to fill prescriptions for abortifacients, among other medications, violated federal anti discrimination statutes.

Additionally, the order directs the data collection of maternal health outcomes through the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as women have been denied or had care postponed due to new state laws prohibiting abortions.

In a press conference Biden referenced a Justice Department suit against the state of Idaho to protect abortions when medically necessary, stating “Under federal law, no woman, whether pregnant or not, no matter where she lives, should be turned away and denied necessary treatment during a medical crisis.” The president also spoke about the need for Congress to codify abortion protections into federal law.