Biden signs executive order to help patients travel for abortions

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President Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday directing his health secretary to consider measures to help patients who travel out of state for abortions.

The travel-related provision in the order calls on Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to consider inviting states to apply for Medicaid waivers when treating patients who cross state lines for reproductive health services.

The executive order is the second Biden has signed into reproductive health since the Supreme Court overturned it Roe v. Wade, follows the administration’s call for the Department of Health and Human Services to explore all options to support Americans living in states with strict abortion access. The president’s actions came a day after Kansas voters Rejected Attempt to strip their state abortion protections.

“[Republicans] American women don’t have a clue about power,” Biden said Wednesday before signing the order. “They found out last night in Kansas.”

After the Supreme Court ruling, both Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland pledged to protect the ability of Americans to cross state lines to obtain abortions and other reproductive health services.

Biden, who has been in isolation since continuing to test positive for the coronavirus, signed the executive order ahead of the first meeting of Vice President Harris’ Interstate Task Force on Reproductive Health Access. The President almost joined the meeting.

Two Long Weeks: Inside Biden’s Struggle to Respond to Abortion Ruling

Following the Supreme Court ruling, the executive order directs Becerra to consider measures to ensure health care providers comply with federal nondiscrimination laws to ensure that those who are confused about their obligations receive medically necessary care, including providing technical assistance.

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Finally, the directive 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 to help the administration expand abortion access and signaled his intent to protect access to medication abortions, or abortion pills.

Biden said last month that “I think it’s a terrible, serious and completely wrong decision by the Supreme Court.”

She added: “The Court has made it clear that women’s rights cannot be protected — period. Period. After reading a document frozen in time in the 1860s when women didn’t even have the right to vote, the Court is now practically daring American women to go to the ballot box and reclaim them. They’ve been stripped of so many rights. “

But many activists have criticized Biden for reacting too slowly to the decision, especially since the draft comment was leaked weeks before the official decision. Activists and some Democrats have called on the administration to declare abortion access a public health emergency.

In some states, women seeking medical care for miscarriages are delayed in getting treatment or confusion over laws puts some women’s lives at risk.

A group of more than 80 Democratic House lawmakers last month sent a letter to Biden and Becerra urging them to make abortion a public health emergency. But the White House has reservations about the move because it would provide little in the way of additional funding and could end up in the Supreme Court, which could use the case to limit the federal government’s emergency powers.

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Yasmeen Abutaleb contributed to this report.

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