President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that his administration is not going to “sit by and let Republicans throughout the country enact extreme policies” when it comes to reproductive health care, announcing new steps to enhance abortion protections as he marked 100 days after Roe v. Wade was overturned.
Biden also specifically took aim at the University of Idaho, which issued legal guidance in light of the state’s near-total abortion ban. The university guidance says the school should no longer offer birth control for students and advised university employees against speaking about abortion at work.
“Folks, what century are we in? What are we doing? I respect everyone’s view on this, personal decisions they make, but my Lord, we’re talking about contraception here,” Biden said during the second meeting of the administration’s Task Force on Reproductive Health Care Access. “It shouldn’t be that controversial but this is what it looks like when you start to take away the right of privacy.”
The Department of Education released guidance for universities reiterating the Title IX requirement that institutions protect students from discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, including pregnancy termination. And the Department of Health and Human Services announced more than $6 million in Title X grants to “protect and expand access to reproductive health care and improve service delivery, promote the adoption of healthy behaviors, and reduce existing health disparities.”
The moves build on existing efforts toward protecting reproductive health care at the federal level, including executive actions announced over the summer, White House Gender Policy Council executive director Jen Klein said in a 100-day report obtained by CNN.
Biden, speaking from the meeting at the White House, also warned colleges against considering enacting policies that target students’ access to reproductive care, saying, “My message to any other college considering enacting policies like this: Don’t. Please don’t.”
Biden continued the political message in the meeting, telling Americans that Roe cannot be codified unless Americans vote out Republicans in the upcoming midterms, saying, “The only way it’s gonna happen is if the American people make it happen.”
In August, Biden signed an executive order that will help women travel out of state to receive abortions, ensure health care providers comply with federal law so women aren’t delayed in getting care and advances research and data collection on the matter. And in July, he signed another executive order that he said would safeguard access to abortion care and contraceptives, protect patient privacy and establish a task force on reproductive health care access with members from multiple departments across the government. The White House has also kept up a public pressure campaign, reacting to state efforts to restrict abortion access.
Klein renewed calls for Congress to pass legislation to codify the protections established in Roe as she lambasted “extreme steps” from Republican elected officials at the state and national level, pointing to proposed abortion ban legislation from Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and other moves at the state level, including abortion bans in effect in more than a dozen states affecting nearly 30 million women of reproductive age.
“The result is that in 100 days, millions of women cannot access critical health care and doctors and nurses are facing criminal penalties for providing health care,” Klein warned.
Biden and Harris were joined at Tuesday’s meeting by Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough, Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young and Office of Science and Technology Policy Dr. Arati Prabhakar.
This story has been updated with additional developments on Tuesday.