Under pressure from the left, Biden to sign executive order on abortion access

Facing mounting backlash from progressive lawmakers and activists over his tepid response to the Supreme Court’s assault on reproductive rights, President Joe Biden on Friday plans to sign a limited executive order aimed at bolstering access to abortion for people living in GOP-led states that have rushed to ban the procedure.

The order, outlined in a fact sheet released by the White House, will come two weeks after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which ended the constitutional right to abortion and set off a flurry of “trigger bans” on abortion in states across the U.S.

Biden’s executive action contains several major pillars, including “safeguarding access to reproductive healthcare services”—such as medication abortion and emergency contraception—and “protecting patient privacy and access to accurate information.”

Under the new order, Biden will instruct the Department of Health and Human Services to “take additional action to protect and expand access to abortion care, including access to medication that the FDA approved as safe and effective over twenty years ago.”

The order, as summarized by the White House, also expresses the Biden administration’s commitment to shielding the right of pregnant people to “travel safely to another state to seek the care they need” as Republican lawmakers look to bar residents from crossing state lines to obtain an abortion.

Biden’s unilateral action comes as members of his own party and advocacy organizations—which are relentlessly fighting abortion bans in court and mobilizing in the streets—are vocally criticizing the administration for failing to respond with sufficient urgency to the right-wing Supreme Court majority’s attack on fundamental freedoms.

“What the president and the Democratic Party needs to come to terms with is that this is not just a crisis of Roe, this is a crisis of our democracy,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said in a recent interview. “This is a crisis of legitimacy, and President Biden must address that.”

The White House’s outline indicates that the president is not going to utilize federal property to open abortion clinics in Republican-led states, a step that Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have urged him to take.

Warren and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., have also suggested that “federal agencies could explore opportunities to provide vouchers for travel, child care services, and other forms of support for individuals seeking to access abortion care that is unavailable in their home state.”

While Biden’s order is expected to make clear that paid sick leave is available to federal workers who need to travel to obtain reproductive care, the executive action appears to be limited to government employees.

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