Washington — President Biden is set to sign an executive order Wednesday aimed at easing travel to obtain an abortion and enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws for those seeking the procedure, his latest unilateral effort to secure abortion rights in the wake of the Supreme Court decision to strike down Roe v. Wade.
The order directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to consider actions to support patients who travel out of state for abortions, including through the use of waivers that would allow states where abortion is legal to cover the cost of the procedure under Medicaid for – residents of the state. The order also directs the secretary to make sure health care providers comply with federal nondiscrimination laws and asks him to evaluate and improve maternal health outcomes research and analysis.
The president signs the executive action Wednesday during a virtual appearance at the first meeting of his newly formed Task Force on Access to Reproductive Health Care. Mr. Biden is still recovering from a “rebound” case of COVID-19 and is self-isolating at the White House.
The White House said it continues to look for actions the president can take on his own to protect abortion access in light of overturning Roe, but the steps the president has taken so far shine a light on how limited the powers are of without congressional action. . The president has spoken of his limitations without legislative authority in the past and has consistently encouraged Congress to enshrine abortion protections in federal law.
“The only way we can ensure a woman’s right to choose and the balance that existed is for Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade as federal law,” the president said in remarks after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. “No executive action by the president can do that.”
At the task force meeting, cabinet leaders will report on the progress they have made in implementationthe president issued to preserve access to abortion. That executive order required the Department of Justice to do everything in its power to protect women seeking abortions, including protecting their right to travel to another state and access approved abortion drugs. It also sought to ensure that all women and girls who experience pregnancy loss can get the medical care they need, regardless of their situation.
The Ministry of Justiceagainst the state of Idaho on Tuesday, arguing that a law that bans nearly all abortions runs afoul of a federal law that guarantees treatment, including abortion, to women who experience medical emergencies. The lawsuit is the first legal challenge the Biden administration has attached to a state law since Roe was overturned.
Some Democrats were disappointed by Mr. Biden’s initial response to the Supreme Court decision, arguing that the White House should have been more prepared. The president, while taking whatever action the administration believes it can take at a given time, has suggested the ball is in Congress’s court. The House has passed legislation to protect abortion rights, but the Senate lacks the votes to follow suit.
Meanwhile, both those who support abortion rights and those who oppose them have begun to take matters into their own hands at the state level. On Tuesday night, voters in deep red Kansasa measure that would have removed abortion access protections from the Kansas Constitution.
“Canes defended fundamental rights today” he tweeted Kansas Democratic Governor Laura Kelly. “We rejected divisive legislation that jeopardized our economic future and jeopardized women’s access to health care. Together, we will continue to make incredible strides to make KS the best state in the nation to live freely and doing business.”
Sean Conlon contributed reporting.