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Pictured: President Joe Biden against pink background that reads "Protect women"
Capitol Hill to reinforce abortion access for seekers who resort to different pathways. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images.

Biden to issue new executive order reinforcing abortion access

The order aims to further current protections.

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Today, Wednesday, Aug. 3, President Joe Biden convened a first meeting of the Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access, an interagency task force to issue a new executive order and further abortion access nationwide. 

In a statement released by the White House, the first meeting of the day was held to address new directives across varying departments to secure how an abortion seeker can obtain an abortion safely. 

The order aims to address out-of-state abortions, as women and birthing persons resort to traveling to neighboring states where the medical procedure remains legal. 

With increasing migration from non-residents seeking legal care, providers grapple with murky legal precedent for expanding services to out-of-state patients, where some states might seek liability against them. 

Given current precedent or lack thereof, brick-and-mortar clinics with no state-level protection could find themselves in legal hot water.

In states like Pennsylvania, swift measures were taken to protect out-of-state abortions by directing federal agencies to reject cooperation with other states to prosecute travelers and by protecting any data collected during the visit. 

New York and Delaware have similar provisions. 

However, it becomes increasingly vague should the provider prescribe medication that the traveler then brings back to their home state. According to a draft journal article by David Cohen, a law professor at Drexel University School of Law, prosecutors can use existing tools and lack of statutes for federal courts to evaluate inter-jurisdictional questions. 

Biden’s executive order could provide a federal answer to existing federal gaps by advancing access through Medicaid, specifically for out-of-state care. 

The order also addresses the non-discrimination law to assure continuing care from providers who, according to the statement, “may be confused or unsure of their obligations in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs.”

Following Biden’s signature, cabinet heads will report on progress in implementing the president’s directive on July 8. The task force is comprised of several federal agencies in the White House across multiple sectors, like Education, Security, Labor, and Veterans Affairs, among others.

The release also reiterated previous steps taken by the administration in their efforts to protect abortion access, which they initially outlined. 

The Department of Health and Human Services also took steps to address state-level concerns and restrictions though it remains unclear what the outcome of said meetings will be. 

“Today, in no uncertain terms, we are reinforcing that we expect providers to continue offering these services, and that federal law preempts state abortion bans when needed for emergency care,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

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