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White House unveils policy push for Roe anniversary

Actions precede Biden-Harris event planned for Tuesday in northern Virginia

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra sent a letter to health payers that receive federal funding to clarify their obligations to cover contraception under the 2010 health care law. The letter was also sent to private insurers as well as state Medicaid programs and Medicare plans.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra sent a letter to health payers that receive federal funding to clarify their obligations to cover contraception under the 2010 health care law. The letter was also sent to private insurers as well as state Medicaid programs and Medicare plans. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

 
The White House on Monday announced a series of administrative actions aimed at protecting reproductive rights timed to coincide with the 51st anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.

The moves come as the administration’s reproductive health care task force, established in the aftermath of the June 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that decision overturned Roe, met for the fourth time to update the president on agency efforts to protect access to abortion, including medication abortion, contraception and emergency care.

The actions also dovetail with a series of Biden-Harris campaign announcements last week.

The task force provided updates on the steps it has taken to build on President Joe Biden’s three previous executive orders that outline ways that the administration can improve or protect access to abortion and contraception.

“The number one priority for all of us is working to pass a federal law that will restore the protections that were lost when Roe was overturned, and that will remain our laser focus,” said Jennifer Klein, assistant to the president and director of the White House Gender Policy Council, speaking to reporters.

[Johnson touts personal story in speech at anti-abortion march]

Klein said that these actions include new joint guidance from the departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor aimed at improving to free contraception under the 2010 health law. The Office of Personnel Management also announced a similar policy for health care coverage for federal workers.

In addition, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra issued a letter to health payers that receive federal funding to clarify their obligations to cover contraception under the law. The letter was sent to private insurers as well as state Medicaid programs and Medicare plans.

HHS announced its plan to inform patients about their rights related to emergency care under the 1986 health law known as the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act and established a new team focused on supporting and providing technical assistance to help providers and hospitals comply with their requirements under federal law. 

The Supreme Court will hear a case regarding the intersection of Idaho’s state abortion law and the 1986 law this term, as advocates and health workers have cited confusion about when the federal law can supersede state restrictions. 

Klein said the administration will continue working with state partners as part of its broader strategy to bring attention to ballot measures, state executive orders and legislative efforts.

She also said that agencies are continuing their work on reviewing comments as part of the rulemaking process, including a reproductive privacy rule proposed last April.

Biden, speaking ahead of the task force meeting, renewed calls for Congress to pass abortion rights legislation.

“I’m going to sign it immediately and restore that right. Until then my administration is gonna keep working to protect women in the wake of the Supreme Court’s extreme decision,” Biden said Monday. “This message is we are fighting hard to reinstate your rights and the rights to protect women and families and doctors who care for those women.” 

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