President Joe Biden will take executive action Friday to protect access to abortion, the White House said, as he faces mounting pressure from fellow Democrats to be more forceful on the subject after the Supreme Court ended a constitutional right to the procedure two weeks ago.
The White House said President Biden will speak Friday morning "on protecting access to reproductive health care services." The actions he was expected to outline are intended to try to mitigate some potential penalties women seeking abortion may face after the ruling but are limited in their ability to safeguard access to abortion nationwide.
President Biden is expected to formalize instructions to the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to push back on efforts to limit the ability of women to access federally approved abortion medication or to travel across state lines to access clinical abortion services.
President Biden's executive order will also direct agencies to work to educate medical providers and insurers about how and when they are required to share privileged patient information with authorities — an effort to protect women who seek or utilize abortion services. He will also ask the Federal Trade Commission to take steps to protect the privacy of those seeking information about reproductive care online and establish an interagency task force to coordinate federal efforts to safeguard access to abortion.
The White House said it will also convene volunteer lawyers to provide women and providers with pro bono legal assistance to help them navigate new state restrictions after the Supreme Court ruling.
The order, after the high court's June 24 ruling that ended the nationwide right to abortion and left it to states to determine whether or how to allow the procedure, comes as President Biden has faced criticism from some in his own party for not acting with more urgency to protect women's access to abortion. The decision in the case known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization overturned the court's landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.
Since the decision, President Biden has stressed that his ability to protect abortion rights by executive action is limited without congressional action.
"Ultimately, Congress is going to have to act to codify Roe into federal law," President Biden said last week during a virtual meeting with Democratic governors.
The tasking to the Justice Department and HHS is expected to push the agencies to fight in court to protect women, but it conveys no guarantees that the judicial system will take their side against potential prosecution by states that have moved to outlaw abortion.
"President Biden has made clear that the only way to secure a woman's right to choose is for Congress to restore the protections of Roe as federal law," the White House said. "Until then, he has committed to doing everything in his power to defend reproductive rights and protect access to safe and legal abortion."
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.