Executive Order Directs Federal Agencies to Protect and Expand Access to Reproductive Health Care and Privacy Rights for Women Seeking Care

President Biden has issued an Executive Order on Protecting Access to Reproductive Healthcare Services in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In the Dobbs decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit states from restricting or banning abortion. Biden’s order instructs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to submit a report within 30 days detailing potential actions to protect and expand access to abortion and the full range of reproductive health care services. These services would include emergency contraception. 

The order further directs the U.S. Attorney General and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to consider any available actions to ensure the safety of those who access and deliver reproductive and related health care services. Likewise, the Federal Trade Commission must consider actions that would protect the privacy of individuals who seek information about reproduction healthcare services. 

Biden’s executive order also addresses the privacy rights of patients, providers, and others who deliver reproductive health services. The order directs HHS to consider providing guidance, including HIPAA guidance, to protect sensitive health information and safeguard patient-provider confidentiality concerning reproductive health services. HHS also should focus on ways to educate consumers about what they can do to protect their health privacy and the sharing of health information. 

The executive order also establishes an Interagency Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access, with the explicit goal of protecting and strengthening women’s access to reproductive health services. 

In response to Biden’s executive order, HHS has already issued guidance addressing HIPAA privacy protections concerning reproductive health care. This guidance also outlines consumer best practices to protect health information when using personal cell phones and tablets.

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