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Biden Signs Executive Order Directing Medicaid to Pay Abortion Travel Expenses

It’s unclear how the program will work, when it will be implemented, or how it will avoid violating the Hyde Amendment.

President Joe Biden signs an executive order virtually during the first meeting of the interagency Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access in the Indian Treaty Room at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on August 3, 2022.

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden signed an executive order aimed at helping people with low incomes travel to other states to access abortion services.

Since the Supreme Court ruled in June to end the abortion rights protections established in the 1973 decision Roe v. Wade, several states have banned the procedure and others have indicated that they are planning to do so in the near future. In 10 states, abortion is illegal at all stages of pregnancy, save for very limiting circumstances, while another four states ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. It is expected that more restrictions will be enacted in other states over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, states like California, New York and Minnesota have become “sanctuaries” for abortion, not only for their own residents but for those traveling from states where the procedure is illegal.

Biden’s executive order this week seeks to address economic barriers that prevent people from traveling to another state to get an abortion by having Medicaid cover travel expenses for those with qualifying low incomes.

The order states that:

The Secretary of HHS [the Department of Health and Human Services] shall consider actions to advance access to reproductive healthcare services, including, to the extent permitted by Federal law, through Medicaid for patients traveling across State lines for medical care.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to elaborate on how or when the order would be enacted while talking to members of the press on Wednesday. She also didn’t explain how the order would circumvent violating the Hyde Amendment, a law that forbids the spending of federal dollars for abortions except in rare circumstances.

“I believe Roe got it right,” Biden said in his announcement of the order. “It’s been the law for close to 50 years. And I committed to the American people that we are doing everything in our power to safeguard access to health care, including the right to choose that women had under Roe v. Wade, which was ripped away by this extreme court.”

The order comes just one day after voters in Kansas rejected a constitutional amendment to their state constitution, which would have allowed the Republican-led legislature to pass new laws restricting or banning abortion. Biden praised the vote, describing it as a “decisive victory” for reproductive rights.

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