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Biden order aims to protect, expand contraception access

Action comes ahead of anniversary of ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade

Demonstrators appear outside the Supreme Court on March 23, 2016, as religious organizations were challenging the 2010 health insurance law's provision requiring employer health plans to cover birth control.
Demonstrators appear outside the Supreme Court on March 23, 2016, as religious organizations were challenging the 2010 health insurance law's provision requiring employer health plans to cover birth control. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The White House on Friday announced a wide-ranging executive order aimed at protecting and expanding access to contraception.

It comes one day before the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned a 1973 precedent establishing a right to an abortion.

The order is President Joe Biden’s third in response to the Dobbs decision, but Friday’s is the first significantly focused on birth control.

Democrats have called for measures to protect access to contraception in the wake of last year’s ruling. Roe v. Wade was originally decided citing the right to privacy precedent established under Griswold v. Connecticut, which protected the right of married couples to use contraception.

The order instructs the administration to consider eight actions aimed at improving the availability and affordability of contraception.

Jen Klein, assistant to the president and director of the Gender Policy Council, told reporters the order serves as a roadmap for Biden’s priorities — but the administration did not provide a specific timeline for agencies.

The order, she said, would jump-start work and show agencies the White House will “be in close touch trying to implement these policies. “

It directs the departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury and Labor to consider new guidance stating private plans must cover all forms of contraception approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Under the 2010 health care law, most plans must cover at least one type of contraceptive per category without a copay. Individuals seeking a form of contraception that is not covered must appeal through an exemptions process.

Klein said the order looks to both broaden the products covered and streamline the exemptions process.

It would also direct those departments to consider new ways to broaden access to affordable over-the-counter contraception.

FDA advisers unanimously recommended the agency approve what would be the nation’s first over-the-counter birth control pill in May.

The order also directs HHS to consider policies to expand access to family planning through the Medicaid program including through disseminating best practices for state Medicaid and managed care programs.

Klein said she would not get ahead of the FDA’s approval process and said the language reflects currently available forms of birth control like emergency contraception.

It also calls for HHS to consider similar action through Medicare Advantage and Part D plans to increase access for women of reproductive age with disabilities and for HHS to track disparities and conduct research on access to contraception and family planning services.

The order also directs HHS to consider having federally supported health care facilities like family planning clinics and community health centers expand the availability of contraceptive options, such as through new guidance or other resources.

The order also provides directives outside of HHS.

It asks the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs and the Office of Personnel Management to examine new actions to ensure servicemembers veterans and federal employees have access.

It also calls on the Labor Department to determine the best ways for employers and insurers to improve access to affordable contraception for employees and for the Education Department to work with higher-education institutions to ensure students are educated on options to seek contraception.

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