President Joe Biden on Friday announced he will sign an executive order (EO) intending to protect access to abortion and other reproductive services, as well as provide patients seeking out-of-state abortions with legal assistance.
According to a White House fact sheet, Biden will instruct HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra to submit a report within 30 days addressing ways to protect and expand access to abortion care, including to abortion medications approved by FDA.
HHS will also be tasked with expanding access to all reproductive health services, including family planning services and contraception, and protecting access to emergency medical care for patients who are experiencing a miscarriage, including by "considering updates to current guidance that clarify physician responsibilities and protections under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act."
HHS must also consider actions that could be taken under HIPAA to "better protect sensitive information related to reproductive health care." Meanwhile the chair of the Federal Trade Commission will be tasked with protecting the privacy of consumers who that seek information about reproductive health care services.
The Biden administration is also promising to increase outreach and public education regarding reproductive health care services. The administration will establish the Task Force on Reproductive Health Care Access, an interagency task force "responsible for coordinating federal interagency policymaking and program development" regarding reproductive health care services, according to the fact sheet.
In addition, the Biden administration intends to ensure the safety of both patients and providers receiving or delivering reproductive care, including by setting up mobile clinics at state borders to provide care for patients seeking abortions out-of-state.
The EO will also task the attorney general's office with providing assistance to states that provide legal protection to out-of-state abortion patients and health care providers. Both the attorney general and White House counsel's offices will gather together private attorneys who will provide free legal services to patients and providers. Both offices will also convene bar associations and public interest groups that will encourage legal representation for patients and providers.
"Such representation could include protecting the right to travel out of state to seek medical care," the White House said in a statement. (Collins, USA Today, 7/8; Samuels, The Hill, 7/8; Viser, Washington Post, 7/8; Shear, New York Times, 7/8; White House fact sheet, 7/8)
The recent Supreme Court ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has triggered a cascade of uncertain consequences for health care leaders and the patients they serve.
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