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3 things Biden can do to fix women's health care on Day One

There’s a lot that Joe Biden can do right away to counteract Trump’s damaging policies.

By Lisa Needham - November 23, 2020
Joe Biden with flag

Over the last four years, the Trump administration has decimated reproductive health care, from blocking all federal funding to Planned Parenthood, to expanding the global gag rule, which prohibits foreign non-governmental organizations that receive federal funding from even mentioning abortion. 

President-elect Joe Biden has said it’s a priority of his to roll back these harmful restrictions, though he’ll face opposition from conservative lawmakers.

On Day One of his presidency, there’s a lot Biden can do to improve the reproductive health landscape. Just as Trump used executive orders to undermine reproductive freedom, Biden can do the same to restore it

Biden could rescind a 2010 executive order that prohibited reducing costs for abortion care under the Affordable Care Act. That could help expand access to abortion for people who receive their insurance through the federal health care exchanges. 

Biden could also undo the harmful global gag rule via executive order. Former resident Ronald Reagan created that rule in 1984. Subsequent Democratic administrations have rescinded the rule, while Republicans have reinstated it. None of the previous GOP administrations, though, took it to such lengths as Trump did. 

Right after taking office, Trump issued an order barring foreign NGOs from receiving almost all types of U.S. global health funds if they “perform[ed ] or actively promote[d] abortion as a method of family planning.” Under this order, the organizations couldn’t even use non-U.S. funds to perform or promote abortions. 

“Promoting” abortions was also read broadly to encompass even providing information about where else to obtain an abortion or a referral to another organization. And NGOs weren’t just cut off from family planning-related funds. Trump’s global gag rule cut them off from funding for HIV initiatives, malaria prevention, and bolstering maternal health. 

Ifs Biden reversed the damaging policy, he would restore reproductive health services to millions of people worldwide.

On the international stage, Biden can withdraw the United States from participation in the Geneva Consensus, a loose coalition of countries notable for their human rights abuses and opposition to abortion. Biden can instead realign American with the United Nations’ statement that abortion is a human right.

Early in his administration, Trump enacted an executive order that allowed people and organizations with religious objections to refuse to provide contraceptive care to employees. The order was so broad that it could fundamentally undermine the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. 

But just as easily as that was enacted, Biden can undo that action. Indeed, he’s already pledged to restore birth control access via a third-party administrator or insurance company, even for organizations that oppose birth control. 

These are actions Biden can take right away, without waiting for Congress, the courts, or administrative rule-making. Taken together, they could make a real difference. 

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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