More than a month after the Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not protect the right to obtain an abortion, President Joe Biden issued his most concrete directive yet to shield some patients from the affects of state bans on the procedure.

At the top of the inaugural meeting of the White House’s task force on reproductive healthcare on Wednesday, Biden signed an executive order that will allow states with legal abortion access to obtain Medicaid wavers to help treat out-of-state patients seeking abortions. Currently, 15 states allow state Medicaid funds to help cover most abortion treatments, which could become destinations for those seeking abortions from states with abortion restrictions.

“Under federal law, no woman, whether pregnant or not, no matter where she lives, should be turned away or denied necessary treatment during a medical crisis,” Biden said before signing the executive order, titled “Securing Access To Reproductive And Other Healthcare Services.” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, Biden said, “will work with states through the Medicaid to allow them to provide reproductive health care for women who live in states where abortions are being banned in that state.”

Vice President Kamala Harris called the order a key part of the administration’s “whole-of-government approach” to the ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which the Supreme Court’s conservative majority overturned the constitutional protections for abortion first established nearly half a century ago under Roe v. Wade.

“People are scared when they look at these laws that are being passed, and they understand what it means for themselves or someone they love,” Harris said. “What we know is that there is a need for clarity around the rights of individuals and states in this moment.”

The executive order, which comes more than a month after the Dobbs ruling, is part of a larger strategy by the White House to slowly roll out its response to the ruling that effectively stripped the right to abortion access from roughly 40 million American women and girls. According to administration officials, that strategy is partly the result of a methodical legal approach intended to establish post-Dobbs actions on the most solid legal footing, as well as to keep the issue front-of-mind for voters ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

But many abortion-rights advocates and Democratic leaders have expressed increasing anger at the administration’s deliberative—some say leisurely—response to the Supreme Court’s ruling. The administration has dismissed some proposals, including establishing abortion clinics on federal lands and providing federal funds allowing patients to travel out of state to obtain an abortion, out of hand. The White House has also declined to declare a public health emergency on abortion, after initially exploring it as a potential option.



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