Image source: CNN
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to help women cross state borders for abortion services.
The executive order is his second, following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the constitutional right to the procedure.
Biden’s order directs the federal health department to consider allowing Medicaid funds to be facilitated for out-of-state travel for abortions.
Last month, the President signed the first order to address the Supreme Court’s decision.
The order also directs HHS to ensure that healthcare providers comply with federal anti-discrimination laws, allowing women to receive “medically necessary care without delay.”
Biden’s order is expected to have limited impact due to Republicans in states pushing a wave of laws that restrict abortion, access to medication, and funding for similar services.
What led to the order
On Tuesday, voters in Kansas vehemently rejected a ballot measure that would have removed language in the state’s constitution protecting abortion rights.
The vote was an overwhelming win for the abortion rights movement in the first statewide electoral test following the Supreme Court ruling.
Kansas borders state that follows the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, including Oklahoma and Missouri.
As a result, Kansas has become a destination for out-of-state women seeking access to abortion care.
President Joe Biden continued his COVID isolation when he spoke virtually to his newly formed task force on reproductive health care access.
Over the call, Biden called the state of abortion access “a health care crisis,” warning that Republicans want to ban the procedure throughout the country.
“I don’t think the court has any notion for that matter or the Republican party for that matter… how women are going to respond,” said Biden on Wednesday.
“They don’t have a clue about the power of American women. Last night in Kansas, they found out.”
Biden also called the Kansas result a “decisive victory,” saying the voters sent a “powerful signal” that makes it clear politicians have no right interfering with the fundamental rights of women.
“This fight is not over, and we saw that last night in Kansas,” said Biden.
“The court practically dared women in this country to go to the ballot box and restore the right to choose.”
Building on the measures
In early July, Biden issued his first order, directing the federal government’s health department to expand access to medication abortion to protect women who travel for abortions.
The President’s latest order builds on the measures. But, like the first order, it remains vague on how it can be achieved.
According to a senior administration official, the second order asks the Health and Human Services Department to consider using funds like Medicaid to support low-income women traveling out-of-state for abortion services.
It also urges Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra to consider inviting states to apply for Medicaid waivers while treating patients traveling for reproductive health services.
The Hyde Amendment
A Congressional measure called the Hyde Amendment states that Medicaid will not pay for an abortion.
The only exception is if the woman’s life is in danger or the pregnancy stems from rape or incest.
It also directs the department to ensure health care providers act accordingly to federal non-discrimination laws when offering such services.
The measure also orders for data to be collected to measure the impact of the ruling on maternal health.
Biden and Kamala Harris
President Joe Biden signed the order at the first meeting of the interagency task force on reproductive healthcare access.
Vice President Kamala Harris joined him for the meeting and called the abortion issue “a healthcare crisis in America.”
Senate Democrats rejected Biden’s call to lift the chamber’s “filibuster” rule, which requires 60 out of 100 senators to agree on most legislation to all them to pass a law that officially calls abortion a national right.
Kamala Harris can cast a tie-breaking vote in the event of an evenly divided Senate.
Opinions expressed by NY Weekly contributors are their own.