He also plans to sign an executive order which, according to a statement released late Thursday by the White House, will attempt to ensure access to abortion drugs and emergency contraception, protect patient privacy and strengthen legal options. for those who wish to access these services.
The order directs Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to submit a report within 30 days that would address many of these items. Becerra is also responsible for finding ways to increase public awareness so that those seeking reproductive health care services, including abortion, know how to access them.
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In a nod to some of the legal battles that could arise, Biden is also directing the attorney general and White House counsel to summon pro bono private attorneys, bar associations and public interest organizations to encourage representation. of those who seek or offer reproductive health. services.
“Such representation could include protecting the right to travel out of state for medical treatment,” the White House statement said.
Legal assistance has been a primary concern of some abortion rights advocates. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.) Thursday urged the Biden administration to “go all out,” pointing to legal hurdles that could prevent Michigan residents from seeking services in Canada or bringing drugs back from the other side of the border.
“At this perilous and precarious time for women’s human rights, we must be creative and take bold action,” Whitmer said in a statement accompanying a letter she sent to Biden administration officials. “We have to lead.”
Another area Biden’s executive order attempts to address is patient privacy. Biden is asking the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission to consider taking steps to protect consumer privacy when seeking information about reproductive health services. HHS will also consider additional measures to prevent disclosure of patient information.
Biden is also establishing an interagency task force on access to reproductive health care, which will provide coordination across government on other potential policies.
It’s unclear what impact the actions will have — Biden’s proposals might not make medical abortion accessible in states that have banned abortion, for example. But advocates have urged the president to at least try to fight restrictions on abortion rights, rather than questioning them before making an attempt.
Biden’s actions come two weeks after the Supreme Court struck down five decades of federal abortion rights, and he has come under mounting criticism for not having a more urgent response.
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White House officials defended his decisions, pointing to an early speech he gave following the decision and saying they were doing all they could legally.
But he has been accused of not using the moment to galvanize Democrats and of not speaking out regularly and forcefully. Some also say the White House seemed caught off guard despite having had plenty of time to come up with a plan after a draft Supreme Court ruling was leaked nearly two months earlier.
Biden last week called for the repeal of the filibuster to help codify abortion rights, but he has so far resisted other efforts Democrats have pushed him to adopt.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) pressed Biden to expand the Supreme Court, for example, but he reiterated that he would not consider such a move. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is among those who have called for him to open up federal lands to abortion clinics, a tactic the White House has rejected, saying it could compromise the safety of women who go to the clinics.
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