Updated Jul 8, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Biden signs executive order on abortion access

President Biden speaks during a ceremony at the White House.

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

President Biden on Friday signed an executive order aimed at protecting abortion access after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Why it matters: Biden has faced intense pressure from his own party to act more aggressively on abortion. Many conservative states had "trigger laws" in place that banned or severely limited abortions in the days following the ruling and more bans are expected.

What he's saying: Biden called the Supreme Court's ruling "extreme" and "totally wrongheaded," adding that "this was not a decision driven by the Constitution, ... this was not a decision driven by history."

  • "What we're witnessing wasn't a constitutional judgment, it was an exercise in raw political power."
  • Biden also urged Americans to vote in order to codify Roe as federal law, saying that the Senate needs "two additional pro-choice senators" to be able to change the filibuster rules in order to do so.
  • He pledged to veto a nationwide abortion ban if Republican lawmakers successfully pass such a bill in Congress.
  • "The moment a moment to restore the rights that have been taken away from us. This is the moment to protect our nation from an extremist agenda that is antithetical to everything we believe as Americans."

Driving the news: The Biden administration said the executive order would include "safeguarding access to reproductive health care services, including abortion and contraception," the White House said.

  • Biden is also directing the Department of Health and Human Services to take additional action to protect access to abortion medication, emergency medical care and contraception.
  • The order seeks to address concerns over patient privacy and digital surveillance, including taking steps to protect consumers’ privacy when seeking information about reproductive health care services.
  • The administration will also convene volunteer lawyers to "encourage robust legal representation of patients, providers, and third parties lawfully seeking or offering reproductive health care services throughout the country." That representation could include helping to protect a patient's right to travel to another state for an abortion.
  • HHS is considering actions to protect sensitive information related to reproductive health care, the White House said.
  • "The guidance helps ensure doctors and other medical providers and health plans know that, with limited exceptions, they are not required — and in many cases, are not permitted — to disclose patients’ private information, including to law enforcement," per the White House.

The big picture: After the Supreme Court ruling, Biden has said that his ability to enshrine abortion rights is limited without congressional action.

  • "Until then, he has committed to doing everything in his power to defend reproductive rights and protect access to safe and legal abortion," the White House said.

Abortion rights groups praised Biden's executive order, with the Center for Reproductive Right saying "[we] are glad that President Biden is taking action," adding that as more states ban abortion, "[t]his public health crisis will become more dire by the day."

  • "Planned Parenthood is encouraged the administration is reaffirming its commitment to abortion access," said Jacqueline Ayers, the senior vice president of policy, organizing and campaigns at Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Yes, but: "Biden’s executive action is a step in the right direction. But here’s the reality: This can only be the beginning. What was announced today is not nearly enough of a response to the immeasurable suffering that has already started," said Sara Tabatabaie, chief political officer and communications director of #VOTEPROCHOICE.

  • "This should have been on the President’s desk minutes after Roe v. Wade was overturned. We could not have been more clear about the plan to overturn Roe v. Wade, and these first steps are coming too late and too little if they’re not followed up with additional action," Tabatabaie added.

The other side: "Long gone is the Democratic Party of ‘safe, legal, and rare.’ President Biden has once again caved to the extreme abortion lobby, determined to put the full weight of the federal government behind promoting abortion,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA Pro-Life America, an anti-abortion group.

  • "It is tragic that this administration is using its power to push for more and more painful abortions which harm women and take innocent lives," said Jeanne Mancini, president for March for Life, another anti-abortion organization.

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Editor's note: This story has been updated with new details throughout

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