Shaheen, Hassan & Group of Senators Urge President Biden to Issue Executive Order to Defend Americans’ Right to an Abortion

June 09, 2022

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined a group of Senators led by Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) in a letter to President Biden urging him to immediately issue an executive order directing the federal government to develop a national plan to defend Americans’ fundamental reproductive rights, including their right to an abortion.

The Senators wrote, “Americans across the nation and at every level of government must stand up against this unprecedented assault on women and their right to make decisions about their own bodies and lives. But as President of the United States, you have the unique power to marshal the resources of the entire federal government to respond.”

After decades of activism by Republican extremists, the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, reversing nearly 50 years of settled law and eviscerating the right to a legal abortion. Anti-abortion violence is on the rise, with assaults and threats of harm against abortion providers more than doubling between 2016 and 2020. Anti-abortion politicians have introduced nearly 550 abortion restrictions in 42 states and passed radical laws completely banning abortion and placing bounties on providers offering medical services. And if Roe v. Wade is gutted by this right-wing Supreme Court, Republican leaders have already signaled their next move: a nationwide ban on abortion in all 50 states.

In their letter, the Senators continued, “These proposals are only starting points in a federal apparatus that affects millions of Americans every day. The entirety of the federal government must be engaged in the Administration’s efforts and must act as swiftly as possible.”

President Biden has previously mobilized the full force of the federal government on behalf of several key Administration priorities such as racial justice, voting rights, and competition. In the letter, the Senators urge the President to act with equal boldness and urgency to protect the right to an abortion. In particular, the Senators suggest the following actions for the President’s consideration: 

  1. Increasing access to medication abortion. Federal agencies could take steps to increase the accessibility of medication abortion and ensure the wide availability of accurate information about medication abortion.
  2. Providing resources for individuals seeking abortion care in other states. Federal agencies could explore opportunities to provide vouchers for travel, child care services, and other forms of support for individuals seeking to access abortion care that is unavailable in their home state.
  3. Establishing a reproductive health ombudsman at the Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS). A new ombudsman could educate the public and analyze data collected by HHS about access to reproductive services. For example, this office could gather information about insurers’ coverage of reproductive health services (such as contraception); disseminate information about how individuals could connect with Title X clinics, reproductive health clinics, and abortion funds; and provide the public with safety information related to self-managed abortions outside formal medical settings.
  4. Enforcing “Free Choice of Provider” requirements. HHS could explore more aggressively enforcing federal requirements that guarantee Medicaid beneficiaries have the ability to seek family planning services from their provider of choice.
  5. Clarifying protections for sensitive health and location data. HHS’s Office for Civil Rights could clarify how websites or mobile applications that collect information related to reproductive health (such as period trackers) should protect personally identifiable information and other sensitive data, especially given the risks presented by the sale of this data in states that criminalize reproductive decision-making.
  6. Using federal property and resources to increase access to abortion. The Department of Justice and all relevant agencies could analyze the types of reproductive health services that could be provided on federal property, especially in states where such services are limited by state law or regulation. The Department of Defense could assess the feasibility of moving military personnel and their families and any authority to ensure that members and their families can access reproductive health care when they need it. The Office of Personnel Management could explore requirements that all federal employees are provided paid time off and reimbursement for expenses necessary to access abortion. And all federal agencies—including those who retain custody or control over individuals or provide healthcare to them—could conduct a review of their regulations and policies that limit abortion care and other reproductive health services and promulgate new regulations that expand access to those services.

The Senators concluded, “We urge you to immediately issue an executive order instructing the leaders of every federal agency to submit their plans to protect the right to an abortion within 30 days. Americans across the country are at risk of losing their fundamental rights, including their constitutional right to abortion protected for generations. They deserve no less than a whole-of-government response.”

The letter is also signed by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL),  Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Text of the letter is available here.

Senators Shaheen and Hassan are unrelenting advocates for women’s reproductive rights. They recently held a press conference with the New Hampshire delegation and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England to discuss what’s at stake for women’s freedoms and reproductive health in New Hampshire if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. Shaheen spoke on the Senate floor to urge lawmakers to vote in favor of legislation that would codify Roe. For years, Shaheen has fought to expand coverage of women’s preventative care, including through her legislation to reduce the cost of contraception for servicewomen and dependents in military families. In March, Shaheen and Hassan joined HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra in Manchester for a meeting with New Hampshire family planning providers amid continued attacks from State and congressional Republicans. Shaheen recently penned an op-ed for the Union Leader underscoring the threats to women’s freedoms and rights if Roe is overturned. It can be read in full here.