WASHINGTON — Under pressure to do more to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, President Joe Biden on Friday issued an executive order that aimed to ensure access to abortion medication and emergency contraception while preparing for legal fights to come.
But the order is vague about how the president hopes to accomplish those goals, leaving the details largely to Xavier Becerra, his secretary of health and human services, who has said the administration has “no magic bullet” that can restore access to abortion.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Biden condemned the court’s decision as “terrible, extreme and, I think, so totally wrongheaded.”
The order directs Becerra to develop a report “identifying potential actions” to protect access to abortion but does not say what those actions will be. Becerra will identify “steps” to ensure that pregnant women have access to emergency care, it says, by “considering updates to current guidance on obligations specific to emergency conditions and stabilizing care.”
The order directs Becerra to report back to Biden in 30 days.
In an effort to prepare for legal challenges from opponents of abortion, the order directs the attorney general and the White House counsel to “convene a meeting of private pro bono attorneys, bar associations and public interest organizations to encourage robust legal representation.”
In response to concerns that those seeking abortions could be prosecuted using personal information in emails, texts or web searches, the order seeks to safeguard patient privacy regarding data about women’s health services.
The order pledges that the administration will “ensure the safety of patients, providers and third parties” who are delivering or receiving abortion services. But it does not say how agencies will ensure that amid heightened tensions after the Supreme Court’s decision.
Becerra has said his agency will work with the Justice Department to ensure that women have access to abortion pills in places where state law conflicts with the judgment of the Food and Drug Administration, which approved the drugs for use.
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