The White House defended President Joe Biden’s new executive order making it easier for women on Medicaid to travel across state lines to obtain an abortion, saying it would ‘follow the law.’
But it’s unclear how the Hyde Amendment – a long-standing policy that prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions – would interfere with the order.
The president and other administration officials on Wednesday provided few details on how the order would work or a timeline for its implementation.
But White House press secretary Karine Jean Pierre said it would follow the law.
‘This EO does not — will not — violate the Hyde Amendment. It is law, and we follow the law here,’ she said at her daily press briefing.
She also blasted the June decision by the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, calling it ‘unconstitutional.’
‘It was an unconstitutional action by them – a right that was around for almost 50 years, a right that women had to make a decision on their bodies and how they want to start their families,’ she said.
White House press secretary Karine Jean Pierre said new executive order follows the law ; ‘This EO does not — will not — violate the Hyde Amendment. It is law, and we follow the law here,’ she said at her daily press briefing
President Joe Biden signed a new executive order on Wednesday making it easier for women on Medicaid to travel across state lines to obtain an abortion
Biden’s executive order, which he signed on Wednesday, directs Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra to consider actions that would expand access for individuals seeking reproductive healthcare services, including expanding Medicaid to cover travel costs.
But the Hyde Amendment prohibits federal money from being spent on abortion except in cases of rape, incest and to save the pregnant person’s life.
It is not a permanent law, but has been attached as a temporary ‘rider’ to the Congressional appropriations bill for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It must be renewed annually by Congress.
And it affects funding for abortions under Medicaid, a state and federal health program for low-income individuals.
Medicaid is jointly funded by states and the federal government so states can choose to pay for abortions under Medicaid in other instances, but must use their own revenues – not federal funds.
There are just 16 states that use their own funds to provide abortion coverage under Medicaid. In 34 states, people covered by Medicaid have extremely limited abortion coverage.
Because the Hyde amendment must be included annually in the HHS budget, Congress will have to include it this fall during the annual budget process.
If, for example the Hyde Amendment were to have been lifted in 2019, it could have provided federal support for abortion coverage for 13.9 million reproductive-age women enrolled in Medicaid, as well as millions of others in similarly restricted federal programs, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated.
Jean-Pierre referred answers to questions about how the new executive order would work – and how the Hyde Amendment would apply – to the Department of Health and Human Services.
‘HHS will be clearly leading this effort and will have more details to share,’ she said.
‘We’re going to leave it to HHS to come up with the details on the specifics on how they’re going to work with states — if a state asks for a waiver — and what that’s going to look like,’ she noted. ‘This is going to be in their purview. They’re going to come up with the specifics — again, with the details on how this is going to work.’
Abortion rights demonstrators protest outside the Indiana Statehouse last week – abortion protests have sprung up across the nation
Anti-abortion rights demonstrators protest in Indianapolis, Indiana – President Biden has been using executive orders to protect abortion rights but those could be challenged in court
This is the second executive order Biden has signed on reproductive rights. Last month, the president signed an executive order intended to ensure access to abortion medication and emergency contraception.
Both of his orders could be challenged in court.
‘The president has been very clear that he’s going to do everything that he can. It doesn’t stop with this,’ Jean-Pierre said. ‘But he can’t only be the only person working on this, right? That’s why we continue to ask Congress to act.’
The Biden administration is also pushing Congress to codify through federal law a woman’s right to an abortion.
Democrats see abortion as an issue to rally their base ahead of the 2022 midterms amid fears Republicans could win control of Congress.
Many activists were heartened by Tuesday’s election results in Kansas, where voters in the red state rejected – by almost a 20-point margin – a proposed amendment to the state Constitution that would have added language stating that it does not grant the right to abortion.
President Biden has attacked extremists Republicans for wanting to ban abortions in all circumstances.
Speaking at a virtual event sponsored by the Democratic National Committee on Wednesday night, the president vowed he ‘will never, never, allow MAGA extremists in the Republican Party to pass a national ban on a woman’s right to choose in America no matter what the circumstances, which is what MAGA extremists are determined to do.’
‘Let me tell you, the Supreme Court and the MAGA Republicans don’t have a clue about the power of women in this country,’ he said.
Polls show a majority of Americans support abortion rights. A recent Pew poll found that 61% of U.S. adults said abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
Biden’s new order, however, falls short of what many Democratic lawmakers and abortion advocacy groups have asked: for Biden to declare a public health emergency on abortion.
White House officials argue that doing so will do little to free up federal resources or activate new legal authorities.