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Biden Issues Executive Order Seeking to Improve Access to Birth Control

“Contraception is an essential component of reproductive health care,” a press release from the White House said.

President Joe Biden speaks during a press conference following the G7 Leaders' Summit in Hiroshima on May 21, 2023.

President Joe Biden plans to sign an executive order on Friday directing various departments in his administration to consider new rules to bolster protections for reproductive rights, specifically access to contraception.

The order comes nearly a year after the Supreme Court ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health to overturn abortion protections previously established in Roe v. Wade, upending reproductive rights for millions across the country.

That ruling, in which the majority opinion was authored by Justice Samuel Alito, rejected 14th Amendment protections for abortion rights that had been established for decades. Alito justified the ruling, in part, by claiming that “the Constitution makes no reference to abortion.”

“No such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision,” Alito added, ignoring nearly half a century of precedent.

In his opinion, Alito asserted that the Court wouldn’t target birth control protections in the future, including those established by the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut decision, which used some of the same legal justifications as Roe to block states from denying people access to birth control. But in a concurring opinion to Alito’s, Justice Clarence Thomas suggested that the Court should target such protections.

“In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold,” Thomas wrote.

Thomas’s opinion led many to fear that protections for contraception access would soon be on the chopping block. While Biden cannot block a future Supreme Court ruling, the executive order handed down on Friday seeks to preserve and strengthen the right to attain contraceptive medication and devices.

The order directs federal agencies and departments to consider ways to require private insurers to expand options for accessing birth control under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

Among other provisions within the order, the directive from Biden will:

  • Direct cabinet secretaries within the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services departments to “consider new guidance to ensure that private health insurance under the Affordable Care Act covers all Food and Drug Administration-approved, -granted, or -cleared contraceptives without cost sharing”;
  • Order those cabinet secretaries to “streamline the process” for allowing people to access birth control, including “improv[ing] access to affordable over-the-counter contraception, including emergency contraception”;
  • Ask those departments to consider new options for expanding access to family planning services for families on Medicaid and Medicare and
  • Promote ways to expand research and data collection on contraceptive care.

“Contraception is an essential component of reproductive health care that has only become more important in the wake of Dobbs and the ensuing crisis in women’s access to health care,” reads an online fact sheet from the White House.

There are still immense barriers when it comes to accessing birth control in the U.S., including the requirement that people obtain a prescription in order to get contraception. Earlier this year, an advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called on the agency to end that requirement.

The panel’s advice to the FDA, which was unanimous, said the benefits of making birth control accessible (and affordable) outweigh any potential risks.

“The panel seems very comfortable with the limited number of risks from the medication itself,” said the panel’s chair, Maria Coyle.

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