On Friday, July 8th, President Joseph Biden signed his first significant executive order regarding nationwide access to reproductive health services Friday. The White House order came two weeks after the most conservative Supreme Court in a century overturned two landmark decisions guaranteeing abortion access on a federal level, and only four months before the mid-term congressional elections in November. The order is largely seen as a symbolic gesture and was followed by a major press release. In his remarks, Mr. Biden emphasised the limitations to his powers on the matter, and asked Congress to take the necessary steps to codify Roe v. Wade into U.S. law.
According to the White House Factsheet that accompanied the announcement, the order focuses primarily on ensuring women’s access to private pregnancy prevention and termination tools that do not require professional care, something that is expected to be severely restricted or banned in as many as 26 states in the coming weeks. These include medication abortion and various forms of contraception access, including long-acting intrauterine devices (IUDs). Mobile abortion clinics at state borders, as well as privacy security measures to prevent legal liabilities were also addressed. The statement also confirmed that abortion costs are still covered by the Affordable Care Act. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is directed to submit a report on the progress achieved within 30 days.
The President of the United States blasted the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that overturned 50 years of precedent in the Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood decisions. Referring to the unprecedented slew of ultra-conservative decisions by the SCOTUS last month, Biden urged supporters to resist ‘An out of control Supreme Court … [and the] extremist elements of the Republican Party’. He promised to veto any nationwide bill that seeks to restrict abortions during his Presidency, a real possibility after the expected Democratic defeat in the fall.
However, the President’s Democratic Party, which holds a functioning majority in both the House and the Senate, has not expressed willingness to take any drastic measures that might cause controversy in the face of the November polls. There are no indications of a plan to expand (or ‘pack’) the Supreme Court with new, liberal appointees. Even though President Biden expressed his support for waiving the filibuster last week, his primary pitch during the press conference was to lead the process through the proper channels if enough votes could be secured in the upcoming elections.
Mr. Biden stressed that the centre-left Party needed only ‘Two additional pro-choice senators and a pro-choice House’ to make a national reproductive healthcare guarantee a reality. He declared: ‘Your vote can make that a reality’, warning that his colleagues in the right-wing Republican Party have not had ‘A clue about the power of American women’. The POTUS expressed his hope for a record turnout in November prompted by the outrage at the Supreme Court’s sweeping decisions.