What President Biden’s executive order for abortion rights really means

President Biden signed an executive order Friday, July 8, in an effort to protect abortion rights and reproductive healthcare access at the national level in response to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling to abolish the constitutional right to an abortion.

Related: U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade—what happens now?

Here’s what the executive order is aiming to protect: access to abortion medication and emergency contraception, patient privacy, and extended security measures safeguarding those seeking abortions and those in a position to provide them. It also mentions instituting public education efforts surrounding this issue.

President Biden has spoken publicly about his limitations with restoring abortion access on a federal level. In the wake of SCOTUS’s decision to strike down Roe v. Wade last month—which provided women with the right to have an abortion for nearly 50 years—the President doesn’t have the constitutional right to completely restore those protections.

“President Biden has made clear that the only way to secure a woman’s right to choose is for Congress to restore the protections of Roe as federal law. Until then, he has committed to doing everything in his power to defend reproductive rights and protect access to safe and legal abortion,” the White House said in a statement on Friday.

Related: What overturning Roe v. Wade could mean for women who experience pregnancy loss

What is an executive order?

And for those wondering what an executive order is or how they’re used: An executive order gives the president the power to sign something into law. Executive orders cannot be overturned by Congress and they also don’t need Congressional approval.

The executive order is one way Biden is exercising his presidential power to address the issue of abortion rights.

Biden’s executive order: What does it outline?

  • The President is launching an interagency task force on reproductive healthcare access.
  • The Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary is ordered to submit a report on the actions his department is taking regarding this issue.
  • HHS will work to expand access to emergency contraception and long-lasting contraception, like IUDs.
  • HHS is to consider updating and clarifying guidelines surrounding what physician responsibilities and protections are under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act.
  • The Attorney General has already issued statements clarifying that states cannot ban the FDA-approved medication that’s used to end early pregnancies (mifepristone).
  • HHS will also be in charge of strengthening outreach and public education efforts, “to ensure that Americans have access to reliable and accurate information about their rights and access to care.”
  • White House counsel and the Attorney General are working together to gather pro bono attorneys and organizations who can expand legal efforts for those lawfully seeking abortions and for those providing them.
  • Biden is also asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to consider taking steps that will protect people’s privacy when they seek information about reproductive health care services.
  • The FTC, HHS, and the Attorney General are also being asked to collaborate on protecting access to accurate and reliable information and addressing fraudulent practices.
  • HHS is to also consider safeguarding access to patient’s sensitive information. This includes new guidance concerning the fact that medical personnel are not required to, and in some instances not legally allowed, to share patient information with anyone—including law enforcement.
  • Protecting your data on mobile apps is something else the HHS will issue guidance for.
  • Ensuring the safety of anyone seeking or providing abortions is also regarded in the order.

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