Biden signs executive order to help pay for women’s abortions

Boxes of Mifepristone for medical abortion are prepared for patients at the Planned Parenthood health center in Birmingham, Alabama, March 14, 2022.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

Our President Joe Biden will sign an executive order on Wednesday to help cover the cost of women getting abortions, a senior administration official said.

He directed Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to encourage states to write rules so that their state Medicaid plans could cover certain costs for women going for abortions in the United States. states where the procedure is still legal.

But groups like Planned Parenthood have called on the Biden administration to use all emergency powers at its disposal to protect access to abortion. The Center for Reproductive Rights has specifically called on HHS to use emergency medical legislation, known as the PREP Act, to allow healthcare providers in states where abortions are still legal to prescribe. and distribute mifepristone for early abortion to women in states with a ban.

The Biden administration has considered declaring a public health emergency to protect access to the abortion pill, but it fears doctors could face prosecution in states that have banned the practice. this technique, a senior administration official said.

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A senior administration official said the White House has not yet used those powers because officials are concerned that it may ultimately not be enough to protect doctors and women.

The law gives the Health and Human Services secretary the authority to extend legal protections to anyone manufacturing or administering a drug needed to respond to a public health emergency. copper. It was widely used in March 2020 to protect Covid-19 vaccine makers, test manufacturers, and pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer that are making therapeutics like the antiviral Paxlovid. . It also protects doctors who perform injections and tests.

Under that authority, HHS Minister Becerra could designate the abortion pill, mifepristone, as needed to prevent a health emergency caused by reduced access to abortion. In theory, this would ban abortions in the previous state and make mifepristone available to women in those states, opening the way to early abortion.

“One of the concerns we have about invoking the PREP Act is that we are concerned that we cannot protect women and doctors from liability, including criminalization. , that’s why we haven’t taken that action,” a senior administration told reporters on a call.

Legal experts say Republican state officials will immediately sue the administration for using the PREP Act to protect drug abortions, and federal courts could quickly block the action. this is in effect. The matter could eventually end before the same conservative-controlled Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade case.

Many states banned abortion after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe. v. Wade has also banned doctors from using drugs to terminate a pregnancy, including mifepristone. State bans in most cases make abortion a felony that carries a prison sentence of many years.

Women who have abortions are generally immune from prosecution under most state bans, but reproductive rights activists fear that Republican state officials will eventually try to prosecute those accept this trick.

The Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone more than 20 years ago as a safe and effective way to end a pregnancy before the 10th week. Mifepristone is taken with misoprostol to induce contractions that help end a pregnancy. early termination of pregnancy.

Medical abortion has become an increasingly common procedure to terminate pregnancy in the United States Mifepristone used along with misoprostol accounted for more than 50% of abortions in the United States in 2020, according to a survey of all all known suppliers of the Guttmacher Institute.

In December, the FDA decided to permanently repeal the requirement that women must pick up their medications in person, making it easier to deliver medications by mail through telemedicine appointments.

But the physical location of the patient determines which state telemedicine law applies. This means that women in states that ban abortion cannot receive the procedure through telemedicine with providers in states where it is legal.

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