June 14, 2024

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White House unveils new actions to protect contraception, emergency abortion access

The White House on Monday unveiled new steps from the administration to ensure access to contraception, emergency abortions at hospitals and abortion medication. 

President Biden will also meet with his reproductive rights task force Monday, the fourth time the group of senior officials has met since its formation. They will be joined by several physicians who practice in states with abortion bans. 

The announcement comes on the same day Vice President Harris kicks off a nationwide tour to promote abortion rights as the Biden administration and campaign look to seize momentum on the issue ahead of the 2024 election.  

It also commemorates the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that made abortion a constitutional right before it was overturned in 2022. 

“Because of Republican elected officials, women’s health and lives are at risk. In states across the country, women are being turned away from emergency rooms, forced to go to court to seek permission for the medical attention they need, and made to travel hundreds of miles for health care,” Biden said in a statement. 

To expand access to contraception, health agencies are issuing guidance for private insurers to cover, for free, a broader range of federally approved contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act. Similar guidance will make sure federal employees see the same benefits.  

“In addition to this new guidance, and as we have previously made clear, we will continue to call on group health plan sponsors and issuers to remove impermissible barriers and ensure individuals in your plans have access to the contraceptive coverage they need, as required under the law,” Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a memo to insurers. 

On emergency abortion, HHS is ramping up enforcement of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), which the administration says requires hospitals to provide emergency abortion to stabilize patients even in the states where abortion is banned or restricted. 

The HHS said it is establishing a new team of experts to help support hospitals and providers across the country in complying with EMTALA requirements, “to help ensure that every patient receives the emergency medical care required under federal law.” The agency also unveiled a plan to educate all patients about their rights. 

EMTALA has become the newest front in the clash between federal and state abortion policies. The Department of Justice is fighting high-profile lawsuits against Texas and Idaho for denying women emergency abortion care, and the Supreme Court will hear the Idaho case in June. However, it’s unclear how strictly the law is being enforced outside those instances. 

The White House’s actions reflect the desire of the president’s reelection campaign and Democrats broadly to keep abortion front and center for the 2024 election. 

Biden’s campaign is targeting former President Trump, the GOP front-runner, in its messaging about Monday’s anniversary, aiming to remind voters Trump’s presidency led to the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June 2022. 

Biden and Vice President Harris are holding a campaign rally Tuesday in Virginia, a pivotal state for Democrats in 2024. Harris is starting her tour Monday in the battleground state of Wisconsin. 

“Vice President Harris and I are fighting to protect women’s reproductive freedom against Republicans officials’ dangerous, extreme, and out-of-touch agenda. We stand with the vast majority of Americans who support a woman’s right to choose, and continue to call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe in federal law once and for all,” Biden said in a statement Monday.  

But Democrats couldn’t pass such a law when they controlled both chambers of Congress, and won’t be able to unless Biden wins reelection, they grow their majority in the Senate and they win back control of the House.  

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