The Biden Administration is Implementing New Abortion Initiatives: A Brief Overview


The 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade would have occurred on January 22. In preparation, the White House asked numerous media to meet with administration officials on the Friday before, Jan. 19, to emphasize their commitment to restoring reproductive rights.

As I passed through the security gates and into the snow-covered grounds off Pennsylvania Avenue, I had no idea what to anticipate from the day’s briefings. But I was optimistic, looking forward to hearing what some of the president’s closest aides had to say.

They began with statistics—the shocking type that we’ve been hearing since June 24, 2022, when the Supreme Court decided to repeal Roe. More than 20 states now have draconian abortion prohibitions in existence. Twenty-seven million women of reproductive age presently reside in states that prohibit abortion. More than 380 state legislation limiting abortion access were submitted last year alone. These are just a few of the statistics that Jennifer Klein, head of the White House Gender Policy Council, shared with the audience.

Then came the plans, starting with the president’s fourth task group meeting on reproductive healthcare access, which will take place today, January 22. Several authorities have also announced new initiatives to preserve access to reproductive health care.

These initiatives are divided into three categories: defending access to contraception, strengthening birthing people’s rights to emergency medical care, and rallying support for medication abortion.

For starters, the Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services (HHS) will provide new instructions to guarantee that the Affordable Care Act’s rights are implemented and that women covered by the ACA have free access to a choice of contraceptives.

HHS is also announcing a “comprehensive plan” to educate patients and healthcare providers about the emergency care rights guaranteed by EMTALA, or the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which includes rights for birthing people experiencing pregnancy loss and other pregnancy-related emergencies.

Finally, HHS, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security will report on how they are implementing President Biden’s 2023 Presidential Memorandum, which directs these departments to “consider new guidance to support patients, providers, and pharmacies who wish to legally access, prescribe, or provide mifepristone.”

Vice President Kamala Harris also began her countrywide “Fight for Reproductive Freedoms” tour on January 22. It begins in Wisconsin, where Harris will emphasize the negative effects of state abortion prohibitions. On Tuesday, Jan. 23, Biden, Harris, and the first wives will make a campaign stop in Virginia to discuss reproductive rights. This follows Harris’ recent “Fight for Our Freedoms” college tour, during which she visited eight states and spoke to nearly 15,000 students about a variety of topics, including reproductive rights.

These initiatives are doubling down on the reproductive rights agenda ahead of the 2024 election. In Friday’s briefing, Neera Tanden, a White House domestic policy advisor, referred to it as “a cornerstone issue”.

Unfortunately, although admirable, none of this activity — the president’s task force meeting, either of the vice president’s visits or the planned campaign events — will immediately change the way reproductive freedom is regulated in our nation.

In reality, during the last year, Biden has issued at least three executive orders and one presidential memorandum to defend reproductive rights such as abortion and contraception. However, they do not and cannot invalidate any existing state abortion or contraception laws.

Congress is a critical piece of the jigsaw, and the administration understands that. As a top adviser to the president pointed out at our discussion last week, unless we can get something passed in Congress, vast areas of the country will continue to lack access to reproductive freedom. They advised the group that Congress should enshrine these safeguards in federal law.

“We are happy to work with them whenever,” Klein said at Friday’s briefing, noting that the president has been “laser-focused” on enacting federal legislation.

In the interim, the states must act. Several states, including Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Kansas, and California, appear to have already voted to reestablish certain abortion laws at the ballot box.

When asked by the Associated Press, two-thirds of Americans believe abortion should be allowed. Will this transfer into the presidential election? It is uncertain. However, the Biden administration wants to make it clear that it is committed to reproductive liberty without apology. Simply put, voting for Biden means reaffirming abortion rights.

“On this day and every day, Vice President Harris and I are fighting to protect women’s reproductive freedom against Republicans’ dangerous, extreme, and out-of-touch agenda,” the president said in a statement issued today. “We stand with the vast majority of Americans who support a woman’s right to choose, and continue to call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe in federal law once and for all.”

His comment stands in stark contrast to the leading Republican presidential contender, former President Donald Trump, who publicly boasted about his part in Roe’s demise.

“For 54 years, they were trying to get Roe v. Wade overturned, and I did it,” Trump stated during a recent Fox News town hall. “I’m proud to have done it.”

Last week, as I walked off the White House grounds after hours of Q&A, I didn’t experience the relief I expected. The reality is, that the overturning of Roe has had a seismic impact on our country. Offsetting that damage will need far more than Biden’s re-election. But the administration sees it as a start.

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