WASHINGTON (BP) – President Biden took further action Friday in his administration’s ongoing effort to offset the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision, and Southern Baptist and other pro-life advocates again declared their opposition.
Biden signed an executive order Friday (July 8) intended to protect access to abortion and reproductive healthcare. The action occurred two weeks after the justices reversed the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion throughout the country. The court’s 5-4 opinion June 24 in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization returned abortion policy to the states, where it had been before the watershed Roe decision.
The executive order includes directives calling for expanded safeguards for access to drugs that end the lives of preborn children, the establishment of an interagency task force to coordinate protections for abortion access and the assembling of volunteer lawyers to represent women and abortion providers.
Southern Baptist public policy specialist Hannah Daniel told Baptist Press in written comments, “Rather than taking this opportunity to begin building a true culture of life that serves and cares for mothers and their children, President Biden and his administration insist on clinging to a past that saw women preyed upon and the lives of vulnerable children snuffed out.”
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) – which had objected to earlier Biden administration initiatives to protect abortion rights after Roe’s fall – will continue to advocate in opposition to “these actions and will work until a culture of life prevails in our nation,” said Daniel, the entity’s policy manager.
“Government is instituted to protect our rights, including the right to life, and that is the path so many states are pursuing with their laws defending preborn lives,” she said. “Instead of attempting to thwart these policies, they should be replicated in every state and at the federal level.”
About half of the 50 states have enacted or are soon expected to enact abortion bans throughout pregnancy or at some stage of pregnancy. Already, 17 state prohibitions are in effect after Roe’s reversal, although judges have blocked enforcement of four of the bans for the time being, the ERLC reported in an article published Friday at its website.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, charged Biden “has once again caved to the extreme abortion lobby, determined to put the full weight of the federal government behind promoting abortion. Long gone is the Democratic Party of ‘safe, legal, and rare.’”
Biden, who had decried the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe as “outrageous,” repeated on Friday the criticism he has offered on multiple occasions. He denied the decision was “driven by the Constitution” or “driven by history.”
Since June 24, the president has called for Congress to codify Roe into law through an exception to the Senate’s filibuster rule, which requires 60 votes to end debate and take floor action on legislation but is improbable with the chamber’s current makeup. He also has urged voters to elect enough senators to establish expansive abortion rights in federal law.
Friday’s executive order followed other policies in support of abortion rights the Biden administration has publicized since the high court’s June 24 decision. On the same day, the president announced his administration would protect interstate travel for abortions and access to medical/chemical abortions. Days later, the administration also established a new website that helps women find an abortion provider and obtain funds to pay for such a procedure.
Some Democrats in Congress, however, have criticized the Biden administration’s response to the court ruling as weak. Among their proposals have been calls for a declaration by Biden of a “public health emergency” and the opening of abortion clinics on federal lands in conservative states. The administration has declined to take those steps.
Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wrote the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Thursday (July 7) to ask for clarification of the rights of Michigan residents to travel into Canada for abortions and to return across the border with abortion pills. In a written statement, she urged the federal government “to pull out all the stops to ensure that Michiganders can access care in Canada if they need to.”
Abortion rights advocates, meanwhile, applauded Biden’s executive order. Mini Timmaraju, president of NARAL Pro-choice America, said her organization is “encouraged by the Biden-Harris administration’s work to defend abortion rights and access, and look forward to continuing” the partnership in behalf of “reproductive freedom.”
Denise Harle, director of Alliance Defending Freedom’s Center for Life, said, however, Biden’s executive order spreads “harmful misinformation” and focuses on protecting abortion clinics instead of investigating and prosecuting perpetrators who recently have committed violence and vandalism against pregnancy resource centers.
The order “is a monumental misuse of resources that could instead be channeled toward actually helping pregnant mothers who need support so that they don’t feel like abortion is their only choice,” Harle said in a written release.
Among the provisions in his executive order, Biden directed:
- HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra to report within 30 days on possible steps to “protect and expand access” to medical/chemical abortion and other abortion services.
- Attorney General Merrick Garland and the president’s counsel to bring together “private pro bono” lawyers, bar associations and other organizations to urge lawyers to represent women and abortion providers.
- The establishment of an interagency task force that would include Garland to coordinate efforts to protect access to abortion and reproductive services.
- Garland and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to consider actions to protect the safety of women and abortion providers, as well as the security of abortion clinics and entities that dispense abortion drugs.
- Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan to weigh options to protect the privacy of those who seek information on abortion and reproductive services.