WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday aimed at helping women cross state borders to obtain abortions, his second order since the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to the procedure.
The order directs the Department of Health and Human Services to “consider” allowing Medicaid funds to be used to assist people traveling between states to get abortions. The order also directs HHS to ensure that health care providers comply with federal anti-discrimination laws so women receive “medically necessary care without delay.”
Biden, who spoke virtually to his newly formed task force on reproductive health care access as he continues his Covid isolation, called the state of abortion access a “health care crisis” and warned that Republicans want to ban the procedure nationwide.
Voters in Kansas on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure that would have removed language in the state’s constitution protecting abortion rights.
“This fight is not over, and we saw that last night in Kansas,” Biden said. “The court practically dared women in this country to go to the ballot box and restore the right to choose.”
Kansas, which borders states that have severely restricted abortion access following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, including Oklahoma and Missouri, has already become a destination for out-of-state women seeking access to abortion care.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that it would be up to HHS to ensure that the implementation of the order does not violate the Hyde Amendment, which bans using federal funds for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the life of the woman. It is unclear how HHS will go about doing that, and the order is likely to face legal challenges from conservatives.
“This is in consultation with legal experts when we make these announcements and the president has been very clear he is going to continue to do whatever he can to make sure that a woman’s right to choose continues to be protected the best way that he can from the federal government,” she said.
Jean-Pierre said also said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra will “figure out the details and the timeline."
Biden signed an executive order last month to safeguard access to reproductive health care services, including abortion and contraception.
Still, the actions fall short of what some Democrats and advocates have called for, such as declaring a public health emergency over abortion.
Biden has maintained that the best way to safeguard access to abortion is for Congress to pass a law legalizing abortion access nationwide, a move that Democrats do not have enough votes for.
“We’re doing everything in our power to safeguard access to health care,” Biden said. “If Congress fails to act, the people in this country need to elect senators and representatives who will restore Roe and protect the right to privacy, freedom and equality.”