He's working to undo a lot of the damage done by the Trump administration.
President Joe Biden is moving rapidly to roll back the Trump-era policies that harmed women and limited reproductive health care access, including abortion.
On day one of his presidency, Biden sent a letter to the secretary-general of the United Nations retracting the United States' withdrawal from the World Health Organization. At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Trump pulled funding from WHO, blaming it for his administration's botched response to the crisis. In July of last year, he informed the organization the United States would be withdrawing from WHO entirely, functionally cutting the United States off from the global health community.
On day two, Dr. Anthony Fauci, now serving as Biden's chief medical adviser for COVID-19, spoke to WHO and committed to rolling back the Mexico City policy and to "support women and girls' sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights in the United States, as well as globally."
The Mexico City policy, also known as the "global gag rule," blocks foreign nongovernmental organizations from receiving any U.S global health funds if they perform or promote abortions — even if they use non-U.S. funds to do so. The Trump administration reinstated and expanded the rule immediately after he took office. Because of that, critical health initiatives, including HIV and malaria prevention, maternal health, and nutrition programs were stripped of funding.
The rollback of that policy, which is set to occur on Jan. 28, will allow U.S. health funds to flow to international organizations again without imposing anti-abortion restrictions.
The United States is also likely to withdraw from the "Geneva Consensus," a coalition of 32 countries, some of which have abysmal human rights records. The Geneva Consensus declared that there was no international right to abortion. That's a stark contrast to the UN's stance that abortion is a human right, necessary to "eliminate discrimination against women and to ensure women's right to health as well as other fundamental human rights." Withdrawing from the Geneva Consensus puts the United States back in the company of countries that support comprehensive reproductive health care.
On the national stage, Biden's pick for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, is also welcome news for reproductive health. As California's attorney general, Becerra has proved himself to be a staunch champion of both reproductive health rights specifically and the Affordable Care Act.
Becerra would be in charge of Biden's likely expansion of the Affordable Care Act. The ACA has proved to be a boon to women's health.
Uninsured women not only have poor access to care, but they also receive worse care when they do access the health system, according to KFF, which researches health policy. They also have poorer health outcomes in general, and don't tend to receive well-woman care such as mammograms or yearly gynecological exams.
And, before the ACA, women could be charged more than men for health care, and their plans could exclude things like maternity care.
The ACA changed all that, requiring that preventive services be provided to women at no cost and ensuring they couldn't be denied health care for preexisting conditions.
A group of researchers from multiple institutions, including Harvard Medical School, found that women in America experienced "sex-specific challenges" in obtaining affordable quality care before the enactment of the ACA. By contrast, under the ACA, the uninsured rate for women dropped, and the number of women who got preventive care skyrocketed, with the researchers finding, "The ACA is responsible for some of the most significant advances for women's health in recent decades."
With these moves, the Biden administration is on track to restore women's health access thoroughly and quickly.