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What Biden’s executive order on reproductive rights covers, and what it doesn’t

An executive order has limited power to undo the consequences of a Supreme Court ruling, but it does aim to make some services available nationwide.

What Biden’s executive order on reproductive rights covers, and what it doesn’t
President Joe Biden. [Source Image: Adam Schultz/Biden for President; Getty]

On Friday, an impassioned President Biden vowed to defend reproductive rights in the wake of the Supreme Court’s takedown of Roe v. Wade.

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“This Court has made it clear it will not protect the rights of women,” the president wrote in a tweet from the official @POTUS Twitter account. “I will. That’s why today I’m signing an Executive Order to protect access to reproductive healthcare.”

An executive order has limited power to undo the consequences of a Supreme Court ruling, and will have zero effect on the legality of abortions nationwide. However, it can direct federal resources toward efforts to aid the fallout in states that ban the procedure.

Here’s some of what’s in the order:

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  • A formal request for a report, within 30 days, from the Secretary of Health and Human Services, on further steps the department will take to safeguard reproductive rights. According to the White House, those might include expanding access to intrauterine devices, or IUDs, and amending guidance on physician responsibilities as mandated by the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act. (U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has already said that states cannot ban mifepristone, an FDA-approved medication to end early pregnancies known as the “abortion pill.”)
  • A push for outreach and public education efforts on abortion access.
  • A call for the Attorney General and White House Counsel to convene pro bono attorneys and volunteer lawyers in preparation for legal battles ahead, involving patients and providers lawfully seeking or offering abortions.
  • A call for the Federal Trade Commission to take action to ensure consumer privacy when seeking information about reproductive healthcare, and for the Health and Human Services department to shore up the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, to keep sensitive reproductive-healthcare data private.
  • A charge to protect mobile clinics deployed at the borders of states with abortion bans.

In the wake of the SCOTUS ruling last month, many states have already enacted restrictions and bans on abortionsSome major companies have promised to cover travel and medical expenses for employees forced to seek out-of-state abortion care, but the practice raises privacy concerns. Read more on this here.

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