President Joe Biden is due to sign executive orders on Thursday aimed at rolling back some of the Trump administration’s most far-reaching abortion restrictions, including one denying U.S. aid to health groups abroad that provide information about the procedure, according to a White House document and three sources familiar with the plans.
The actions will begin restoring federal support to abortion providers and organizations that offer abortion counseling while promoting the new administration’s reproductive rights agenda on the global stage.
Biden is expected to sign one order rescinding the so-called Mexico City policy — a decades-old rule barring U.S. foreign aid from going to any organization that provides abortions or abortion counseling that the Trump administration expanded over his four years in office. The funding ban has been killed and reinstated several times by presidents along party lines and has been in effect for 20 of the past 35 years.
Biden’s chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, previewed the policy change last week during an address to the World Health Organization.
Biden also plans to withdraw the United States from an anti-abortion resolution the Trump administration signed last year with dozens of other countries — most of which severely restrict or ban the right to terminate a pregnancy. The “Geneva Consensus Declaration” asserted that “there is no international right to abortion, nor any international obligation on the part of States to finance or facilitate abortion.”
Domestically, Biden will additionally sign an order directing the Department of Health and Human Services to begin the process of scrapping the Trump administration’s Title X rule that overhauled the federal family planning program, stripping tens of millions of dollars in grants from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. A source familiar with the plan told POLITICO that the order is also expected to reimpose the original standards for the federal program, which required clinics that provide subsidized family planning services to low-income patients to refer patients for abortions upon request.
The Supreme Court is currently weighing the legality of Trump’s overhaul of the program.
Once Biden signs the order, HHS could announce an interim final rule reflecting the policy change in 30 days. But it would take months longer for the hundreds of providers that left the program over the Trump administration’s ban on abortion referrals to reapply and rejoin their states’ networks.
“It won’t just be like flipping a switch to get all the providers of the Title X program back in,” Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson told reporters on Tuesday.
Recipients of U.S. foreign assistance similarly say the reversal of the Mexico City policy won’t immediately undo the effects of the Trump rule, which expanded the policy to shut out groups involved in activities beyond family planning, including those working on eradicating global HIV and malaria.
Melvine Ouyo, the founder and executive director at Hope for Kenya Slum Adolescents Initiative, which works with teenage girls, told POLITICO that some clinics in hard-to-reach areas closed as a result of the rule, at times leaving people there without any health care.
Progressive lawmakers and abortion rights advocates cheered Thursday’s executive actions but are pressing Biden to go further, saying that a simple reversal of the Trump rules isn’t enough.
“Being bold and really pushing forward an agenda and not just focusing on incremental changes is what is needed over the next two years,” said McGill Johnson.
Progressives in Congress, such as Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), are calling on Biden to next undo Trump rules requiring insurance companies to bill separately for abortion coverage and take steps to shore up the contraception mandate stemming from the Affordable Care Act so that fewer employers can refuse to cover their workers’ birth control. She and others have also demanded that the first budget Biden sends to Congress repeals the longstanding ban on federal funding for abortions.
“I am confident that Biden will be our pro-choice president and he will move swiftly to undo much of the harm of the Trump administration,” Chu said.
Biden was for decades was one of the Democratic party’s staunchest anti-abortion voices, but as a candidate pledged to advance abortion rights. Advocates who met with his transition team, including Silvia Henriquez, the co-president of the group All* Above All, believe more administrative actions are on the way.
“Our issues in the past have often been put on the back burner, but we are hopeful this administration will deliver,” she said.