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International: Biden signs second executive order to protect US abortion access

1:00 pm on 4 August 2022

By Caitlin Gill

President Joe Biden has signed a second executive order aiming to protect reproductive healthcare in the US after the Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion.

The order directs the US Health and Human Services (HHS) department to expand coverage for patients traveling out of state for reproductive healthcare. 

The Biden administration said the executive order will help low-income earners pay for abortion services if they have to travel out of state to obtain them and ensures health care providers comply with federal law. 

However, Biden’s order does not detail how this could be achieved.

Currently, government-subsidized Medicaid health insurance plans, the country's public health insurance programme for low-income earners, cover medically necessary abortions in 16 states.

Those states do not reimburse patients who leave their state for an abortion.

The procedure is now banned in at least 10 states and partially banned in another four.

In July, Biden signed an executive order directing HHS to “take action” to protect access to medication for abortion and update guidance to ensure that emergency care is not affected by abortion restrictions. 

Bans and restrictions are being legally challenged in several other states, with abortion rights in about half the country under threat.

Earlier this week, abortion rights were on the ballot in Kansas, where voters overwhelmingly rejected an amendment that would pave the way for abortion restrictions.

Although the White House is limited in what it could do to improve access to abortion and protect reproductive rights, advocates have urged federal agencies to make it easier to access abortion pills in states where they remain legal, and explicitly direct hospitals receiving federal funds for low-income healthcare programs to provide abortion drugs in life-threatening emergencies.

Public interest journalism funded through NZ on Air.