President Biden Signs Executive Order to Protect Access to Reproductive Healthcare Services

President Biden has signed an executive order that aims to protect access to reproductive healthcare services following the SCOTUS ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, which gave women the constitutional right to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions almost 50 years ago.

“These deeply private decisions should not be subject to government interference.  Yet today, fundamental rights — to privacy, autonomy, freedom, and equality — have been denied to millions of women across the country,” said President Biden.

The SCOTUS ruling did not ban abortions in the United States, instead, it has been left to individual states to determine the legality of abortions. Several states have already banned or severely restricted abortion care for state residents, which has threatened access to reproductive care for millions of Americans. 16 states have either banned or mostly banned abortions, with those laws taking effect within a month, and further 6 states are expected to introduce bans imminently or in the near future. Clinics that provide abortions in the states that have already introduced bans have been forced to close, which not only prevents access to abortion care, but also other reproductive healthcare services including contraception.

In response to the SCOTUS Ruling, the Federal Government has taken steps to protect reproductive healthcare services. “It remains the policy of my Administration to support women’s right to choose and to protect and defend reproductive rights.  Doing so is essential to justice, equality, and our health, safety, and progress as a Nation,” said President Biden.

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The executive order calls for the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to identify potential actions to protect access to reproductive healthcare services. These include protecting and expanding access to abortion care and the full range of reproductive healthcare services, taking actions to enhance family planning services such as access to emergency contraception, and identifying ways to increase outreach and education about access to reproductive healthcare services.

Biden has called for the Secretary of the HHS to provide further guidance on HIPAA and other statutes to better protect sensitive data related to reproductive health care services. The HHS has already issued guidance on how HIPAA applies to disclosures of reproductive healthcare information and guidance for individuals on how they can protect the privacy of their health information. The HHS should also, in conduction with the Attorney General, FTC, and Department of Justice, consider how they can address deceptive or fraudulent practices related to reproductive healthcare services. In conjunction with the Gender Policy Council, the HHS should establish an Interagency Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access.

President Biden is concerned that extremist state governors and others may attempt to obtain sensitive data from individuals’ phones, such as if they may be seeking access to abortion care. “Right now, when you use a search engine or the app on your phone, companies collect your data and sell it to other companies. They even share it with law enforcement,” said Biden. Biden has called upon the Chair of the Federal Trade Commission to take steps to better protect the privacy of individuals who seek information about and the provision of reproductive healthcare services.

The Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security have been told to consider actions under current laws that can be taken to ensure the safety of patients, providers, and third parties, and protect the security of clinics (including mobile clinics), pharmacies, and other entities providing, dispensing, or delivering reproductive and related healthcare services.

A fact sheet has been issued by the White House than summarizes the executive order.

Author: Steve Alder has many years of experience as a journalist, and comes from a background in market research. He is a specialist on legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA. Steve holds a B.Sc. from the University of Liverpool.