WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden plans to sign a second executive order on Wednesday meant to address the recent Supreme Court decision to end the nationwide constitutional right to abortion, as he faces pressure from fellow Democrats to be more forceful on the issue.
The order, like his first one, is expected to have limited impact, as U.S. states enact a wave of laws restricting abortion, access to medication and funding for such services.
Last month, Biden said the court was “out of control” after ruling in June to overturn Roe v Wade, ending a half-century of protections for women’s reproductive rights. His first order in early July directed the federal government’s health department to expand access to medication abortion and ensure that women who travel for abortions are protected.
The latest action builds on those measures, and like the first one remains vague about how it can be achieved. It directs the Health and Human Services Department to consider using funds including Medicaid to support women traveling out-of-state for abortion services, a senior administration official said.
It also directs the department to ensure health-care providers comply with federal non-discrimination laws when offering such services and orders it to collect data to measure the impact of the ruling on maternal health, the official added.
The president will sign the order at the first meeting of the interagency task force on reproductive healthcare access, which was formed in July.
Senate Democrats rejected Biden’s call to lift the chamber’s “filibuster” rule requiring 60 of the 100 senators to agree on most legislation to allow them to pass a law establishing a national right to abortion.
In the evenly divided Senate, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris can cast a tie-breaking vote.
Since then Biden has pivoted to urging voters to elect more Democrats to Congress in the Nov. 8 midterm elections, when Republicans are favored to win back a majority in the House of Representatives and perhaps also the Senate.
Democrats hope the issue may help drive voters to the polls in November.
Protecting abortion rights is a top issue for women Democrats, Reuters polling shows. More than 70% of Americans think the issue should be left to a woman and her doctor.
On Tuesday, Biden’s Justice Department sued Idaho to block a state law that it said imposes a “near-absolute ban” on abortion, marking its first legal challenge to state abortion laws since the Supreme Court ruling.