WASHINGTON: After the Supreme Court struck down a constitutional right to surgery two weeks ago, US President Joe Biden came under increasing pressure from his fellow Democrats to take a stronger stance on the issue. On Friday, he responded by signing an executive order to protect access to abortion.
The steps he suggested are meant to lessen some of the potential consequences that women seeking abortions might experience as a result of the decision, but they fall short of guaranteeing universal access to abortion.
In more than a dozen states where severe restrictions or outright bans on abortion have taken effect as a result of the Supreme Court's decision, Biden acknowledged the constraints his office faces and said it would take a congressional act to restore access to abortion in those areas. In the upcoming weeks and months, new limits are expected to be implemented in about a dozen other states.
The passage of federal law, according to Biden, is the quickest way to restore Roe. The difficulty is to cast your ballot. For the love of God, the election is in November. Please vote. Vote, please!
Biden issued official directives to the Justice and Health and Human Provider's departments directing them to resist any attempts to restrict women's access to legally obtained abortion drugs or their freedom to cross state lines in search of clinical abortion services. Vice President Kamala Harris, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco were there when he signed the order in the Roosevelt Room.
In an effort to protect women who seek or use abortion services, his executive order also instructs agencies to work to educate healthcare professionals and insurers on how and when they are required to share sensitive patient information with law enforcement. Additionally, he is requesting that the Federal Trade Commission create an interagency task group to coordinate federal efforts to safeguard access to abortion and take action to protect the privacy of persons looking for information about reproductive care online.
In addition, Biden is instructing his staff to gather volunteer attorneys to offer free legal counsel to women and providers as they navigate new state regulations as a result of the Supreme Court decision.
The order follows the high court's decision on June 24 that ended the federal right to an abortion and gave states the authority to decide whether or how to permit the procedure. Biden has come under fire from some members of his own party for not acting more quickly to defend women's access to abortion. The court's famous Roe v. Wade judgment from 1973 was overturned in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization case.
Since the ruling, Biden has emphasized that his capacity to defend abortion rights through executive action is constrained in the absence of congressional action and that Democrats do not now hold the necessary number of seats in Congress to do so.
To codify Roe, he declared, "We need two more pro-choice senators and a pro-choice house." Your vote might make that happen.
In response to the court's decision, he predicted that women would protest in "record numbers," and he added that "millions and millions of males will be taking up the fight with them."
On Friday, he reiterated his harsh condemnation of the Supreme Court's justification for overturning the constitutional right to abortion that had been in place for 50 years.
Let's get one thing straight right away: The Constitution was not the driving force behind this judgment, Biden added, accusing the majority of the court of "playing fast and loose with the facts."
During a virtual meeting with Democratic governors last week, Biden said, "Congress will eventually have to act to codify Roe into federal law."
Although the tasking of the Justice Department and HHS encourages the agencies to litigate to defend women, there is no assurance that the legal system will side with them against prospective prosecution by states that have passed abortion bans.
According to the White House, "President Biden has made plain that the best way to ensure a woman's right to choose is for Congress to reinstate the Roe protections as a matter of federal law." "Until then, he has pledged to do everything he can to maintain access to safe and legal abortion and to defend reproductive rights."
Biden's order is "a crucial first step in restoring the rights snatched from millions of Americans by the Supreme Court," according to Mini Timmaraju, head of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
However, Lawrence Gostin, director of Georgetown Law's O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health, called Biden's proposals "underwhelming."
Nothing that I observed would have an impact on the lives of typical poor women living in red states, he claimed.
Gostin urged Biden to be more adamant about ensuring that medication abortion is available throughout the nation and suggested that Medicaid look into paying for travel expenses to neighboring states for the purpose of accessing abortions.
We essentially have two Americas, Gostin remarked. There are two: "one where residents have the same rights to the safe and effective treatments as the rest of the country," and "another where citizens don't have the same access to a full spectrum of healthcare."
Despite admitting that "Medicaid's coverage of abortion is severely limited," Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told the AP that the organization was looking into how Medicaid may pay for travel for abortions.
Biden's action was the most recent attempt to safeguard the privacy of those who are considering or seeking an abortion while regulators and lawmakers deal with the fallout from the Supreme Court decision.
The court's ruling is anticipated to outlaw abortion in more than a dozen states and severely restrict it in others. According to privacy experts, this might put women at risk because their personal information might be used to monitor pregnancies, shared with law enforcement, or sold to vigilantes. According to experts, persons who seek abortions or medical treatment for miscarriages, as well as those who support them, could be prosecuted. This includes using online searches, location data, text messages, emails, and even applications that track periods.
Privacy advocates are keeping an eye out for potential new actions by law enforcement agencies in the impacted states, such as serving subpoenas on internet service providers like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Comcast as well as tech companies like Google, Apple, Bing, Facebook's Messenger, and WhatsApp. Local prosecutors may request search warrants for user data before friendly judges.
Four Democratic congressmen requested last month that the FTC look into claims that Apple and Google misled millions of mobile phone customers by authorizing the gathering and selling of their personal information to other parties.
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