On Wednesday, President Joe Biden is expected to sign an executive order to make interstate travel easier for abortion patients, according to a White House announcement. The executive order will let states that still have abortion providers apply for Medicaid waivers in order to help offset the costs of treating patients traveling from out of state.
The executive order will compel physicians to obey federal nondiscrimination laws (something they are already required to do, but a reminder can’t hurt). On Tuesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the Department of Justice is suing Idaho for its abortion ban, which the federal government contends violates the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act.
While Wednesday’s initial announcement was short on enforcement details, it said the Department of Health and Human Services would provide “technical assistance for health care providers who may be confused or unsure of their obligations,” explain “the potential consequences of non-compliance,” and take other “appropriate action” regarding complaints of non-compliance by healthcare providers.
Wednesday’s action is the second executive order issued by the administration since Roe v. Wade was overturned in June. Abortion advocates are still holding out hope for Biden to declare a public health emergency for abortion access—something Biden told reporters he was considering.
The new executive order also requires healthcare providers to collect data on maternal health for the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so that the federal government understands just how bad it is out here.
Already, the numbers tell a dire story. The National Abortion Federation gave financial support for more than 3,500 abortions from June 24 to July 25. In 2022, NAF has funded more than 70,000 abortions up until July 25, according to new figures released Wednesday. During the same time period in 2021, NAF funded more than 63,000 abortions.
For traveling patients, NAF has paid for 76 hotel rooms this year, compared to five last year. Traveling patients have needed 52 plane or bus trips, compared to one such travel need in 2021.
In the month following the overturning of Roe, 43 abortion-providing clinics shuttered in 11 states that have either banned abortion outright or banned abortion starting at six weeks, according to research from the Guttmacher Institute.