The Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has been over for two weeks, a period of expected confusion and worry while right-wing states impose increasingly harsh abortion restrictions.
Seven states have effectively activated their pre-Dobbs trigger laws, outlawing the practice in nearly every case after Roe v. Wade was overturned and federal abortion protections were abolished.
Others face legal obstacles, leading to a maze of red tape that often puts both physicians and patients in the dark about whether, how, or when it is possible to legally stop pregnancy in their locale.
Other medical disorders, such as miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, and even some kinds of arthritis that may benefit from a medicine that may be used in medical termination are also at risk because of the criminalization of abortion.
Perhaps you’ve been wondering, as the repercussions have unfurled in an unpredictable manner, whether the Democrats, including Vice President Joe Biden, would take action.
In any event, this appears to be the day. In response to Dobbs’ questions, Vice President Biden issued an “Executive Order Protecting Access to Reproductive Health Care Services” on July 8. It gives the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, the authority to put in place safeguards for reproductive health services, such as contraception, Plan B, and abortion.
In addition, it outlines legal protections for healthcare practitioners and patients who may suddenly be the object of the state’s scrutiny. It’s a “decision that impacts everyone, unconnected to choice, beyond choice,” Biden said of Dobbs’s opinion.
“We can’t let a Supreme Court out of control, working with Republican Party extremists, take away our freedoms and personal liberty.”
White House information brief states action would strengthen patient and provider safeguards, but does not give any specifics (around their data and personal safety). Pregnant women will also be protected from unwanted pregnancies by “protecting access to medication abortion” and “ensuring emergency medical treatment.”
A report from the HHS, which Vice President Biden has ordered to be completed in the next 30 days, will determine how these items will be implemented. The directive states that it intends to help Title X-funded clinics in an effort to promote access to contraception for women who have been targeted by their local governments.
Patients’ rights, data protection, and complaint filing are among the topics covered by the order’s online resources.
That’s a start, but it falls short of the current level of urgency. This is a start; many of us have been waiting for the government to do something, anything, for the love of God why are you just sitting there? But this is something.
Vice President Joe Biden has maintained since the Supreme Court’s conservative majority published its verdict, that he cannot remedy this situation with an order. Reiterating his June 24 address in which he voiced open dissatisfaction and lambasted the judges for their “extremism,” the president said that the only way to restore abortion rights was for people to vote on Friday.
While he was accurate in his assessment and in his description of the decision as “out of touch with the majority of Americans,” his conviction that he could do nothing to change it sounded weak. He could have done something. Abortion has never been the primary problem here, even if it’s Congress that needs to legislate abortion safeguards.
Despite the fact that abortion is a constitutionally protected right, states have routinely arrested, detained, and punished women on suspicion of having an abortion for decades. Miscarriages, stillbirths, and driving without a seatbelt have historically resulted in women ending themselves in prison.
As long as the rights of the fetus outweigh the rights of the woman carrying the fetus, this sort of punishment will continue to be used. A lack of physical autonomy and the capacity to choose when, how, and if to become a parent means that those who can get pregnant lose the opportunity for equality.
There is a growing movement of conservatives who are publicly pursuing new legislation that punishes not only providers but also patients, allowing them to be monitored by their neighbors and by data brokers, who may then use that information for their own profiteering.
Proposals to criminally prosecute patients directly have been made by several legislators, including Louisiana State Senator Katrina Jackson In spite of the fact that contraception is currently legal (though even the Court’s most left-leaning members worry it may be put on the chopping block), doctors are reporting an increasing number of patients who are frightened that having an IUD may get them in hot water with the state.
Since at least the Dobbs opinion surfaced in early May, if not years earlier, all of this has been part of the prognosis.
Even assuming that conservative lawmakers and lobbyists who have spent their careers attacking Roe were always sincere in their stated intention to demolish it, it seems reasonable to assume that they are equally sincere in their efforts to pass federal abortion bans, reconsider gay marriages and repeal the right to birth control.
Now is a good moment to accept their word for it and begin erecting the fence. Ordering today is the first step. It’s also insufficient. Please go above and above your call of duty.