WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden signed an executive order Friday to protect access to abortion as he faced mounting pressure from fellow Democrats to be more forceful on the subject after the Supreme Court ended a constitutional right to the procedure two weeks ago.
The actions he outlined are intended to mitigate some potential penalties women seeking abortion may face after the ruling but are limited in their ability to safeguard access to abortion nationwide. Biden acknowledged the limitations facing his office, saying it would require an act of Congress to restore access to abortion in the more than a dozen states where strict limits or total bans have gone into effect in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling. About a dozen more states are set to impose additional restrictions in the coming weeks and months.
“The fastest way to restore Roe is to pass a national law,” Biden said. ““The challenge is go out and vote. For God’s sake there is an election in November. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote!”
Biden formalized instructions to the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to push back on efforts to limit the ability of women to access federally approved abortion medication or to travel across state lines to access clinical abortion services. He was joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, HHS secretary Xavier Becerra and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco in the Roosevelt Room as he signed the order.
His executive order also directs agencies to work to educate medical providers and insurers about how and when they are required to share privileged patient information with authorities — an effort to protect women who seek or utilize abortion services. He is also asking the Federal Trade Commission to take steps to protect the privacy of those seeking information about reproductive care online and establish an interagency task force to coordinate federal efforts to safeguard access to abortion.
Biden is also directing his staff to convene volunteer lawyers to provide women and providers with pro bono legal assistance to help them navigate new state restrictions after the Supreme Court ruling.