President Joe Biden’s administration announced a new executive order intended to expand access to contraception on Friday, one day before the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that eliminated the national right to abortion.
The new executive order will direct agencies to increase access to contraception through a range of programs and services, including under the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Title X family planning services.
“This executive order underscores the president and vice president’s continued commitment to protecting access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care,” Jen Klein, the director of the White House’s Gender Policy Council, told reporters on a call Thursday afternoon. While contraception cannot replace the need for abortion services or fill the gap left by the loss of a constitutional right, the right to choose, it’s an important part of helping ensure that women can make decisions about their own health, lives and families.”
The order directs the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services departments to streamline access to birth control for people with private insurance and promote access to over-the-counter contraception; instructs the Department of Defense to consider new actions to strengthen access for members of the military and veterans; and orders HHS to expand availability and quality of contraception within federally funded health services like community health centers, as well as support research into contraception access.
Klein said the order is intended to increase contraceptives options for the public, raise awareness of them and decrease out-of-pocket costs for contraceptives.
The White House did not have any specific timeline or date by which the agencies will be required to have new rules implemented, noting that it takes time to develop new strategies.
The order comes just ahead of Saturday’s first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization, in which the court overturned landmark abortion rights decision Roe v. Wade and thus the national right to abortion. Since then, 13 states have banned abortion, with at least 26 clinic closures in the first 100 days following the decision — closures which also eliminate a source of family planning services like birth control prescriptions.
Advocates for reproductive rights are worried contraception will be next: Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion in Dobbs indicated he was willing to put birth control on the chopping block as well.
The White House asserted, meanwhile, that the order’s focus on contraception in no way indicated that the administration had come to the end of the road on what it intended to do on abortion rights.
“This executive order is consistent with our overall response to the Dobbs decision and to state efforts to eliminate or otherwise limit access to reproductive care,” said Klein. She highlighted that shortly after the Dobbs decision, the administration had issued two executive orders on protecting reproductive rights. “This executive order joins those two prior, as you know, which together, as I said, lay out a clear roadmap for federal agencies to bolster access to the full spectrum of health care. But we’ve been quite clear that contraception is not a substitute for abortion care.”
The order comes ahead of a Friday rally marking the Dobbs anniversary, where Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are expected to be endorsed by major reproductive rights advocacy groups, including NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and EMILY’s List. Abortion is expected to be a major issue in the 2024 election cycle, the first presidential election since the overturn of Roe.