President Biden has issued an Executive Order on Protecting Access to Reproductive Healthcare Services following the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.
According to the Supreme Court, there is no right to abortion in the Constitution of the United States. That decision in Dobbs v. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned Roe v. Wade, which for 50 years has given women the constitutional right to an abortion. While abortions have not been banned, states are now free to introduce bans or restrict access to abortions for residents of their respective states. Several states had trigger laws in place that banned or reduced access to abortions should Roe v. Wade be overturned, and many more are expected to introduce similar bans or restrictions.
“Eliminating the right recognized in Roe has already had and will continue to have devastating implications for women’s health and public health more broadly,” said President Biden in the Executive Order. “Access to reproductive healthcare services is now threatened for millions of Americans, and especially for those who live in states that are banning or severely restricting abortion care.”
President Biden said his administration is committed to safeguarding access to reproductive healthcare services, which include contraception, abortion medications, and emergency reproductive medical care, and to improving education around reproductive healthcare services.
In a fact sheet on the Executive Order, the White House explained that the Biden administration had already taken steps to defend the reproductive rights of individuals and that the Executive Order will build on those actions by safeguarding access to reproductive health care services, protecting the privacy of patients and their access to accurate information, promoting the safety and security of patients, providers, and clinics, and coordinating the implementation of Federal efforts to protect reproductive rights and access to health care.
The Executive Order requires the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to report to the president within 30 days on the additional actions the HHS can take to protect access to medical abortions, including access to abortion drugs that have been approved by the FDA for more than 20 years. The steps that the HHS will take to ensure pregnant women and women experiencing pregnancy loss have access to the full rights and protections for emergency medical care afforded under the law, and how the HHS can help to protect access to contraception. The HHS will also increase outreach and public education efforts regarding access to reproductive health care services.
The HHS will also consider additional actions that can be taken under HIPAA to better protect sensitive reproductive healthcare information. The HHS has already issued guidance to providers and patients on HIPAA and disclosures of reproductive healthcare information and how to improve privacy when using health tracker apps on cell phones and tablets.
The Attorney General and the White House Counsel will seek legal assistance from private pro bono attorneys, bar associations, and public interest organizations and will encourage robust legal representation to protect the right of individuals to travel out of state to seek medical care.
There is concern that patient privacy may be violated and that individuals will be subjected to digital surveillance related to reproductive healthcare services. The Chair of the Federal Trade Commission has been asked to consider taking steps to protect consumers’ privacy when seeking information about and the provision of reproductive health care services and to work with the HHS Secretary to address deceptive or fraudulent practices, protect access to accurate information, and ensure patient privacy and the nondiscrimination of patients.
The Executive Order also seeks to better protect patients, providers, clinics, and other entities that provide, dispense, or deliver reproductive healthcare services. An interagency task force will also be established to coordinate Federal interagency policymaking and program development with respect to reproductive healthcare.