Biden signs executive order on abortion rights challenging state laws

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New York, July 10: US President Joe Biden signed off on an executive order to protect abortion rights throughout the United States to safeguard access to reproductive healthcare services, which targets states that have banned or severely restricted abortion in the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision that overturned the landmark Roe vs Wade verdict.

According to the White House, Biden's executive order aims to safeguard access to reproductive healthcare services nationwide, including access to surgical and medication abortion and contraception; protecting patient privacy and access to accurate information; promoting the safety of patients, providers and facilities, and coordinating federal efforts to protect reproductive rights and access to healthcare.

The executive order (EO) also states that the Biden administration will convene private pro bono attorneys, bar associations and public interest organisations to help provide legal representation to patients, providers and third parties "lawfully seeking or offering reproductive health care services throughout the country", according to a statement issued by the White House.

The EO, however, dismissed a proposal by leading Democrats in the Senate and House who urged Biden to permit abortion services on federal land in states where the procedure is banned. The federal government controls about 63 per cent of the land in the state of Utah, which is a well-established Republican stronghold.

Utah's 'trigger law', which bans most abortions, is temporarily on hold after 3rd District Court Judge Andrew Stone issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the Utah law from going into effect for two weeks, according to Desert News from Utah.

A hearing on a request for a preliminary injunction is scheduled on Monday.

The state's memorandum opposes the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah's motion for preliminary injunction released on Friday, teeing up some of the state's arguments against the civil rights complaint, primarily that the Utah Constitution does not expressly protect a right to abortion, nor does it protect an implied right to abortion.

Moreover, the state's response cites criminal statutes outlawing abortion that date back to the 1890s, which were in effect until the Supreme Court's landmark ruling in 1973 that recognized women's constitutional right to abortion, the memo states.

The Utah Legislature's passed SB174 in 2020, which once again made abortion a crime in Utah after the Supreme Court ruled to overturn Roe in a 5-4 decision and uphold Mississippi's restrictive abortion law in a 6-3 decision.

SB174 bans abortion on demand but permits these exceptions: "If the mother's life is at risk; if the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest; or if two maternal-fetal medicine physicians both determine that a fetus "has a defect that is uniformly diagnosable and uniformly lethal or … has a severe brain abnormality that is uniformly diagnosable."

Meanwhile. CNN TV Network reported that using federal lands for abortion services would have "dangerous ramifications", quoting White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

The White House fact-sheet reaffirms the President's earlier statements that "Americans must remain free to travel safely to another state to seek the care they need" and "his commitment to fighting any attack by a state or local official who attempts to interfere with women exercising this right".

Abortion providers in states in which access to abortion services is ensured under their state laws have reported they have been planning for increased numbers of patients from states that have imposed bans, but the waiting period for availing such services is a cause for major concern.

According to The Denver Post, abortion providers in Colorado say they've been inundated with requests for abortion appointments and are also seeing an increase in appointments for birth control strategies such as vasectomies or intrauterine devices.

According to the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services will consider additional federal medical privacy laws "to better protect sensitive information related to reproductive healthcare". Measures are in place to issue a how-to guide for consumers to protect their personal data on mobile apps.

Jacqueline Ayers, the senior vice-president of policy, organising and campaigns at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, responded to the executive order in a statement thus: "We're in a national health care crisis and need officials at every level of government to do everything within their authority to fight for access to abortion. Amid the Supreme Court stripping Americans of their constitutional right to abortion after nearly 50 years, we need an urgent and robust response to ensure people get the essential health care they need."

Biden is currently speaking on the rollback of federal abortion protections, two weeks after the Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v Wade, the landmark case that protected abortion rights nationwide as pronounced in 1973 but Supreme Court overturned it in July 2022.

"This was not a decision driven by the constitution. This was not a decision driven by history," said Biden of the Supreme Court overturning the Roe vs Wade verdict.

Discussing the conservative majority in the court, Biden said: "Today's supreme court majority is playing fast and loose with the facts."

Later on in his remarks, Biden called on Americans to use their electoral power to elect senators who would help codify Roe vs Wade, saying that it was the "fastest route" to solidifying federal abortion rights.

"Your votes can make that a reality."

Biden's statement reflects his increasing frustration that his administration faces amid urging people to vote.

"You, the women of America, can determine the outcome of this issue," he said, emphasizing that the courts did not have a "clue about the power of American women." "For God's sake, there's an election in November. Vote, vote, vote," said Biden.

His remarks come on the back of his signing off on an executive order protecting access to abortion and other reproductive healthcare nationwide.

Several Democrats have responded positively to Biden's executive order, calling it a good first step but urging him to do more to protect abortion rights federally, reports Politico.

Bidens EO found its echo in the UK, a predominantly protestant country. Leading British newspaper The Guardian reported that the day Biden signed an executive order safeguarding access to abortions, ironically, Louisiana was able to enforce a near-total ban of abortions in the state under a judge's order issued on Friday.

With abortion access threatened across the country, those seeking out abortion services and other reproductive healthcare options will be forced to travel if their states do not provide it.

The Guardian's staffers Alvin Chang, Andrew Witherspoon and Jessica Glenza explored how the creation of abortion "deserts" throughout the country will change who can access care — and how far they will be forced to travel.

During the briefing, White house press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre got into a back-and-forth discussion with a reporter on whether or not people can peacefully protest against Supreme court justices, even in settings like restaurants. The question was prompted after Justice Brett Kavanaugh reportedly had to leave a steakhouse when protesters confronted him for voting to overturn the Roe vs wade verdict.

Jean-Pierre replied to a question on if protesters could confront justices at a restaurant they're eating at, saying that the Biden administration is against the intimidation of Supreme Court justices and using violence against them.

Jean-Pierre also cited recent legislation passed to protect the safety of justices. Later on in her response, Jean-Pierre clarified, saying the Biden administration supports the right to peaceful protest, even outside of a restaurant.


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