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Biden Signs Executive Order Protecting Reproductive Rights


By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

In response to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that now leaves decisions about abortion rights and restrictions to the states, President Biden signed an executive order that seeks to safeguard access to critical healthcare services while protecting the privacy of patients and providers.

The order calls for continued, safe access to contraception, reproductive counseling, and abortion while protecting the personal information of anyone seeking these services or providing them.

“I’m asking the Justice Department … to do something, do everything in their power to protect these women seeking to invoke their right,” the president said after signing the order. “In states where clinics are still open, protect them from intimidation. Protect the right of women to travel from a state that prohibits seeking the medical attention that she needs to a state to provide that care. To protect a woman’s right to the FDA-approved medication that’s been available for over 20 years.”

The order directs other federal agencies to act. For example, the attorney general’s office “shall convene a meeting with private pro bono attorneys, bar associations, and public interest organizations in order to encourage lawyers to represent and assist patients, providers, and third parties lawfully seeking these services throughout the country.” The Federal Trade Commission has been asked “to protect consumers’ privacy when seeking information about and provision of reproductive healthcare services.”

The president directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to carry out several tasks. In addition to educating consumers about HIPAA and other privacy laws, the department has been asked to lead a task force “to identify and coordinate activities to protect and strengthen access to essential reproductive healthcare services [and] coordinate federal interagency policymaking, program development, and outreach efforts to address barriers that individuals and entities may face in seeking and providing reproductive healthcare services.”

“I share President Biden’s unwavering commitment to protecting access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion care, no matter who you are or where you live,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “HHS initiated concrete action to protect access to these critical healthcare services, as well as the privacy and legal rights of patients and providers … we are working closely with the attorney general and other federal partners to ensure patients and providers have the information, support, and care they need.”

Various lawmakers from the House and Senate offered praise for the executive order. The American Medical Association also applauded the action. “For physicians and patients alike, this is a frightening and fraught time, with new, unprecedented concerns about data privacy, access to contraception, and even when to begin lifesaving care,” AMA President Jack Resneck, Jr., MD, said in a statement. “Our hope is that these first steps announced today are clarifying and effective as we continue the critical work necessary to ensuring access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare.”

For more on this and related subjects, be sure to read the latest issues of Contraceptive Technology Update, Medical Ethics Advisor, and OB/GYN Clinical Alert.