President Joe Biden will sign an executive order Wednesday directing Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra “to consider” having Medicaid help pay the costs for women who want to cross state lines to undergo abortions.
The executive order builds on the Biden administration’s efforts to protect abortion access in wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling. In June, the Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that deemed abortion is protected under the U.S. Constitution.
“The Executive Order directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to consider action to advance access to reproductive healthcare services, including through Medicaid for patients who travel out of state for reproductive healthcare services,” reads a fact sheet provided by the White House on the executive order. “This directive is in line with the President and the Attorney General’s clear statements on the Administration’s commitment to defending the bedrock right to travel across state lines to seek reproductive healthcare in states where those services remain legal.”
It remains unclear exactly what specific costs Medicaid could pay for in these cases. Medicaid is not supposed to pay for abortions themselves because of the Hyde Amendment. (RELATED: Biden Warns Of A ‘Mini Revolution’ If SCOTUS Overturns Roe)
On July 8, Biden signed his first executive order aimed at “protecting access to reproductive health.” That order was designed to build “on the actions his Administration has already taken to defend reproductive rights,” according to the White House.
While Wednesday’s action represents a stronger push from the Biden administration, the president has not yet declared a public health emergency. Some members of his party have pushed for him to do so, and the president said in July that it was being weighed as an option.
The latest order, called the “Executive Order on Securing Access to Reproductive and Other Healthcare Services,” also directs Becerra “to evaluate and improve research, data collection, and data analysis … on maternal health and other health outcomes,” according to the White House.
Biden plans to sign the order at the White House’s first interagency Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access meeting. The president will attend the meeting virtually, as he continues to test positive in a “rebound” COVID-positivity case.