Biden signs executive order on abortion travel

President Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order directing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to consider working with states to use Medicaid waivers to pay for expenses for women who cross state lines to receive abortions.


The executive order was the second that Biden has signed over the past month in response to the Supreme Court’s June ruling striking down the landmark 1973 abortion decision in Roe v. Wade.


“I believe Roe got it right, and it’s been the law for close to 50 years,” Biden, who is isolating with COVID-19, said in virtual remarks at a meeting of an interagency task force on reproductive health care.


Biden administration officials did not provide many specifics about what the Medicaid waivers could look like, leaving the details up to HHS.


Officials said Biden’s new order paves the way for Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to invite states to apply for Section 1115 Medicaid waivers to cover certain costs related to traveling for abortion.


Hyde problems: The Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for most abortions, with exceptions given for cases of rape, incest and when the life of the pregnant person is endangered. The Medicaid waivers are likely to face Republican-led legal challenges.

  • White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre insisted that the executive order did not run afoul of the Hyde Amendment. She later seemed to clarify that the waivers could be used to support transportation, contraception and abortion procedures in some cases.