Joe Biden signs executive order to protect travel for abortion access

Latest action from US president comes a day after voters in Kansas rejected measure that would remove right to procedure

President Joe Biden speaks online during the first meeting of the interagency Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access at the White House complex in Washington. AP
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US President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed his second executive order aimed at protecting access to abortion a day after voters in the state of Kansas rejected a measure that would have removed the right to the procedure.

Mr Biden, who pledged to protect access to abortion after the Supreme Court overturned the Roe v Wade ruling last month, praised Tuesday night's results as a "decisive victory".

"Voters made it clear that politicians should not interfere with the fundamental rights of women," he said online from the White House.

Mr Biden again called on Congress to pass legislation that would codify abortion rights.

He has repeatedly said his options to act as president are limited without congressional action and urged Americans to vote for pro-choice candidates during the midterm elections in November.

"This fall, the American people will vote to preserve and protect them right and refused to let them be ripped away by politicians," Mr Biden said.

Wednesday's executive order directs the head of the Department of Health and Human Services to consider actions that would help patients to travel out of state to gain access to the procedure through funds from Medicaid, the White House said.

The order also instructs the department to consider actions that would compel healthcare providers to provide women with necessary care in a timely fashion.

"These actions could include providing technical assistance for healthcare providers who may be confused or unsure of their obligations in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision," the White House said.

Mr Biden signed the order from the White House residence during the first meeting of the Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access, which was established in July.

Vice President Kamala Harris, who led the meeting, said recent restrictive laws passed by Republican-led states have attacked the basic principles of liberty in the US.

"People are scared when they look at these laws that are being passed, and they understand what it means themselves or someone they love," Ms Harris said.

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The Biden administration has been pressed to do more to protect access to the procedure, including declaring a public health emergency over abortion rights.

But White House staff see the proposition as a symbolic move to appease the Democratic party's liberal wing, Bloomberg reported.

Mr Biden signed an executive order earlier in July directing the Department of Health and Human Services to protect and expand access to "medical abortion" and contraception, although it did not restore the procedure's availability in states that have largely restricted it.

The Justice Department filed its first post-Roe lawsuit on abortion rights this week, suing the state of Idaho over its law banning abortion after six weeks.

The department contends that federal law requires doctors and hospitals to perform medically required abortions to preserve a patient's health.

Updated: August 03, 2022, 7:18 PM