The executive order, the second Biden has signed on reproductive health since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wadefollows the administration’s call for the Department of Health and Human Services to explore all options to support Americans who live in states that have severely limited abortion access. The president’s actions came a day after Kansas voters rejected an effort to strip away their state’s abortion protections.
“[Republicans] don’t have a clue about 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 decision, 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 isolating because he continues to test positive for the coronavirus, signed the executive order ahead of Vice President Harris’s first meeting of an interagency task force on reproductive health access. The president joined the meeting virtually.
Two long weeks: Inside Biden’s struggle to respond to abortion ruling
The executive order also directs Becerra to consider actions to ensure health-care providers comply with federal nondiscrimination laws to ensure women receive medically necessary care, which could include providing technical assistance for providers confused about their obligations following the Supreme Court’s decision.
Finally, the order calls on Becerra to improve research and data collection on maternal health outcomes.
In early July, Biden signed an executive order that directed Becerra to identify ways the administration can help expand abortion access and signaled his intention to protect access to medication abortion, or abortion pills.
Biden referred last month to what he called “the Supreme Court’s terrible, extreme and, I think, so totally wrongheaded decision.”
He added: “The court has made clear it will not protect the rights of women — period. Period. After having made the decision based on a reading of a document that was frozen in time in the 1860s when women didn’t even have the right to vote, the court now practically dares the women of America to go to the ballot box and restore the very rights they’ve just taken away.”
But many activists have criticized Biden for responding too slowly to the decision, especially given that a draft opinion leaked weeks before the official decision. 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 care for miscarriages are getting delayed care or denied it completely given confusion over the laws, putting some women’s lives in danger.
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 in extra funds and would be likely to end up in the Supreme Court, which could use the case to curb the federal government’s emergency powers.
Yasmeen Abutaleb contributed to this report.