By Senator Lena C. Taylor
Congress needs to codify the right to abortion into law. Period. In the meantime, I join those that are looking for alternative options to protect the reproductive rights of women and girls. I applaud the recent executive order of President Biden outlining actions to safeguard access to reproductive health care services, including abortion and contraception; protect the privacy of patients and their access to accurate information; promote the safety and security of patients, providers, and clinics; and coordinate the implementation of Federal efforts.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) issued guidance affirming that the Emergency Medical Treatment Active Labor Act (EMTALA) protects providers that offer abortion services in emergency situations. It has been made clear to providers that federal law preempts state law restricting access to abortion in emergency situations.
Further, HHS issued has reminded retail pharmacies of their obligations under federal civil rights laws to ensure access to comprehensive reproductive health care services. The guidance makes clear that as recipients of federal financial assistance, pharmacies are prohibited under law from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability in their programs and activities. This includes supplying medications; making determinations regarding the suitability of a prescribed medication for a patient; and advising patients about medications and how to take them.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Justice plans to monitor and evaluate state and local actions that infringe on federal protections relating to the provision or pursuit of reproductive care, impair women’s ability to seek reproductive care where it’s legal, impair individuals’ ability to inform and counsel each other about the reproductive care that is available in other states, ban medication abortion, or impose criminal or civil liability on federal employees who provide legal reproductive health services.
These measures are a part of a number of actions that are being done independent of Congress. Who would have dreamed that we would need to fully enforce the law against illegal use and sharing of highly sensitive data, including location and health information contained in fertility and period tracking data. The full weight of the law has to be used to guarantee that sensitive data is protected by numerous state and federal laws. Far too often, claims that data is “anonymous” are often deceptive, and companies must be stopped from misusing consumer data. Yet we know that there are legislators that would like to use this data to track women’s health care and a possible abortion.
We have to ensure that by any means necessary, we ensure that women remain free to travel safely to another state to seek the care they need and continue to have access to birth control, abortion services, other preventive health services, and health insurance coverage. For more information about the Biden administrations work, please refer to ReproductiveRights.gov and stayed informed.