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Biden signs executive order aimed at protecting abortion access

The order is limited in reach and comes two weeks after the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to an abortion.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Amid mounting pressure to take action in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, President Joe Biden signed an executive order Friday aimed at protecting access to abortions.

Though limited in scope, the order aims to counteract the legal and privacy repercussions pregnant people seeking an abortion might face in a new landscape where abortion could become illegal or heavily restricted in large swaths of the country.

Biden's announcement establishes the Task Force on Reproductive Health Care Access and directs federal agencies to inform medical professionals as well as insurance companies about when they are legally required and not required to divulge information about their patients to law enforcement.

It also requests that the head of the Federal Trade Commission evaluate potential steps to prevent patient information from becoming public and work to protect the privacy of people looking for information about abortions and reproductive health care.

The White House counsel and attorney general will also bring together a group of private attorneys to work on a pro bono basis for people providing or seeking an abortion who face legal battles.

Under the order, the Department of Health and Human Services will have to submit a report within 30 days detailing steps to expand access to medication abortions, contraception and public education about abortion access.

The executive order comes two weeks after the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization eviscerated the constitutional right to an abortion, turning decisions about reproductive health care access over to the states.

Since the 6-3 decision, which overturned the 50-year-old right established in Roe v. Wade, abortion became illegal in at least nine states, with abortion bans tied up in legal battles or set to take effect later this summer in several other states.

"What we're witnessing wasn't a constitutional judgment, it was an exercise in raw political power," Biden said during a speech announcing the executive order Friday.

The president slammed the high court's ruling, accusing the justices of playing "fast and loose with the facts."

"We cannot allow an out of control Supreme Court to work in conjunction with extremist elements of the Republican Party to take away freedoms and our personal autonomy. The choice we face as a nation [is] between the mainstream and the extreme, between moving forward and moving backwards, between allowing politicians to enter the most personal parts of our lives and protecting the right to privacy, yes, yes, embedded in our Constitution," Biden said.

Biden has faced pressure from Democrats to take more decisive action on abortion rights, including calls for expanding the size of the Supreme Court and putting abortion clinics on federal land, moves the administration has rejected.

Last week, he urged the Senate to nix the filibuster in order to pass a bill codifying the right to an abortion into federal law, but Friday’s executive order marks the first unilateral action the president has taken since the Supreme Court’s decision.

Citing the court's opinion which eliminated the right to terminate a pregnancy and said "women are not without electoral or political power," Biden called on women and other voters angered by the Supreme Court's decision to take that frustration to the ballot box in November.

"We need two additional pro-choice senators and a pro-choice House to codify Roe as federal law. Your vote can make that a reality," Biden said.

"The court now dares the women of America to go to the ballot box and restore the very rights they've taken away," Biden added.

Congress attempted to pass a federal law protecting the right to an abortion twice this year, but it stalled in the 50-50 Senate both times.

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