President Biden Issues Executive Order on Reproductive Health and Rights

The Population Institute congratulates the Biden-Harris administration for taking the first steps toward undoing the harmful and restrictive anti-abortion policies of the previous administration.

President Biden today signed an executive order rescinding the global gag rule, which bars foreign NGOs that receive U.S. global health funding from counseling patients about abortion or referring them to abortion services. The order reverses a Trump-era policy that disrupted the provision of health care, including abortion services, to millions of people in developing countries.

The president also directed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to begin immediately to review Trump-era regulations that prohibited Title X grantees from counseling or referring patients for abortion services. The restrictions have interfered with the trusted relationship between medical professionals and their patients, forcing many family planning providers including Planned Parenthood affiliates, to drop out of Title X program. The restrictions have jeopardized the very future of a program that has provided family planning services to tens of millions of low-income households.

Robert Walker, president of the Population Institute, hailed the Biden-Harris administration for taking these vital first steps, but warned that much more needs to be done to rectify the damage inflicted by the Trump-Pence administration. “President Trump and his allies waged an unrelenting war on reproductive health and rights that has jeopardized the health and well-being of millions both at home and abroad. It will take time to correct these wrongs and move forward with an ambitious agenda for sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice, but we must do so with urgency, and Congress, as well as the administration, will need to do its part.”

Soon after taking office in 2017 the Trump-Pence administration suspended U.S. support for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The executive order renews support for the agency, which is a major provider of family planning and reproductive health care in the Global South. The executive order also repudiates U.S. support for the Geneva Consensus Declaration, a Trump-Pence initiative which sought to undermine international support for both abortion rights and LGBTQ+ rights.

Walker said “Trump-era policies have done incalculable harm to women, young people, and the LGBTQ+ community both in the U.S. and abroad. It’s time to take a fresh new look at America’s approach to sexual and reproductive health, rights and justice, starting with consideration of priorities laid out in the Blueprint for Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice, a roadmap that was endorsed last year by more than 100 organizations, including passing the Global Health, Rights, and Empowerment (HER) Act, the EACH Woman Act, and the Abortion Is Health Care Everywhere Act.”

The HER Act, which would permanently repeal the global gag rule, was introduced today in the U.S. Senate by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and more than 40 of their colleagues. The HER Act was introduced today in the House by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ami Bera (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and 170 additional cosponsors.