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Biden to sign executive order paving way for Medicaid to pay for out-of-state abortions

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden is expected to sign an executive order on Wednesday that will pave the way for Medicaid to pay for abortion services for people having to travel out of state, according to a senior Biden administration official.

The new directive will allow the secretary of health and human services to “invite states to apply for Medicaid waivers, so that states where abortion is legal could provide services to people traveling from a state where abortion may be illegal to seek services in their state,” the official said. Technically, these states would apply through what’s known as a “Medicaid 1115 waiver,” according to the official.

The official noted that when the White House looked into declaring a public health emergency for abortion and what that would allow the federal government to do, this change to Medicaid — an assistance program for low-income patients’ medical expenses — was one of the options. But the White House realized the president could also do it through an executive order instead, which he plans to do Wednesday, the official said.

Biden’s order will also direct the health and human services secretary to make sure “health care providers comply with federal non-discrimination laws so that women receive medically necessary care without delay,” according to the White House. That could include “providing technical assistance for health care providers who may be confused or unsure of their obligations in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs,” or providing other info and guidance to providers about their obligations and consequences of not complying with non-discrimination laws.

The order also will direct the health and human services secretary to improve research and data collection on maternal health outcomes, according to the White House.

Biden is expected to sign the order during the first meeting of a reproductive rights task force that he established in July in the wake of the United States Supreme Court overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade case, which had legalized abortion nationwide nearly 50 years ago. The court’s historic ruling in June declared that there is no federal constitutional right to end a pregnancy, leading some states to ban abortions.

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