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Biden signs executive order to help safeguard access to abortion, contraception

by FRANCE 24
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world news US President Joe Biden on Friday signed an executive order to help safeguard women’s access to abortion and contraception after the Supreme Court last month overturned the Roe v. Wade decision that legalised abortion. 

Biden, a Democrat, has been under pressure from supporters, particularly progressives, to take action after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in a landmark decision that upended roughly 50 years of protections for women’s reproductive rights.

The executive order was meant to “protect the reproductive rights of women in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s extreme decision to overturn Roe v. Wade”, said Biden in a Twitter post.

Today I signed an Executive Order to protect the reproductive rights of women in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s extreme decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

It formalizes the actions I announced right after the decision and will add new measures to protect women’s health.

— President Biden (@POTUS) July 8, 2022 “We cannot allow an out of control Supreme Court working in conjunction with extremist elements of the Republican Party to take away freedoms and our personal autonomy,” said Biden. “The choice we face as a nation is between the mainstream and the extreme.”

The order directs the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department to take action to protect and expand access to “medication abortion” approved by the Food and Drug Administration. 

It also directs the department to ensure women have access to emergency medical care, family planning services, and contraception, including intrauterine devices (IUDs.)

Biden’s attorney general and White House counsel will convene pro bono attorneys and other organisations to provide legal counsel for patients seeking an abortion as well as abortion providers.

The Supreme Court’s ruling restored states’ ability to ban abortion. As a result, women with unwanted pregnancies face the choice of traveling to another state where the procedure remains legal and available, buying abortion pills online, or having a potentially dangerous illegal abortion.

The issue may help drive Democrats to the polls in the November midterm elections, when Republicans have a chance of taking control of Congress. Democrats have a slim majority in the House of Representatives and control the evenly divided Senate through Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote.

Biden on Friday urged women to vote this November, saying the fastest way to reverse the Supreme Court’s rollback of abortion rights is to have large Democratic majorities in Congress to pass a law codifying such rights.

“This is the fastest route available,” he told reporters at the White House. “It’s my hope and my strong belief that women will in fact turn out in record numbers to reclaim the rights that have been taken from them by the court.”

‘Ultimately, Congress is going to have to act’Biden’s executive order is also aimed at protecting patients’ privacy and ensuring safety for mobile abortion clinics at state borders, and it directs the establishment of a task force to co-ordinate the administration’s response on reproductive health care access.

It 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 utilise abortion services. The Federal Trade Commission is now tasked with taking 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.

Since the landmark Supreme Court decision, Biden has stressed that his ability to protect abortion rights by executive action is limited without congressional action.

“Ultimately, Congress is going to have to act to codify Roe into federal law,” Biden said last week during a virtual meeting with Democratic governors.

The tasking to the Justice Department and the Health and Human Services department is expected to push the agencies to fight in court to protect women, but it conveys no guarantees that the judicial system will take their side against potential prosecution by states that have moved to outlaw abortion.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

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