WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nexstar) — President Joe Biden signed an executive Friday to protect access to abortion, but it might not have a significant impact in Texas, where the state already has several laws limiting access.
The president’s order comes as he faces mounting pressure from within his party after the Supreme Court ended the constitutional right to the procedure that had been in place for nearly 50 years.
“While welcoming his strong words about the Supreme Court’s abhorrent ruling and forceful call for Americans to vote, I believe that the President should take further, strong, immediate action to protect Americans’ rights by issuing an emergency health declaration to offer greater access to abortion,” Texas Congressman Lloyd Doggett said in a statement.
The actions he outlined are intended to mitigate some potential penalties women seeking abortion may face after the ruling but are limited in their ability to safeguard access to abortion nationwide.
Biden formalized instructions to the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to push back on efforts to limit the ability of women to access federally-approved abortion medication or to travel across state lines to access clinical abortion services.
His executive order also directs agencies to work to educate medical providers and insurers about how and when they are required to share privileged patient information with authorities — an effort to protect women who seek or utilize abortion services. He is also asking the Federal Trade Commission to take steps to protect the privacy of those seeking information about reproductive care online and establish an interagency task force to coordinate federal efforts to safeguard access to abortion.
Biden is also directing his staff to convene volunteer lawyers to provide women and providers with pro bono legal assistance to help them navigate new state restrictions after the Supreme Court ruling.
Seema Mohapatra, a law professor at Southern Methodist University, said she doesn’t see any immediate effects on Texas.
“This is not like a bold action. This is kind of an incremental step, I would say, especially for an administration that had notice of a leaked opinion,” Mohapatra said.
Out of all the aspects in his executive order, she said the pro-bono attorneys would likely be the most impactful.
“As is right now, I don’t see anything that restricts somebody that is seeking abortion care from leaving the state and getting it. There’s nothing in either the trigger law or SB-8,” she said.
Mohapatra noted that Texas women will have few options for drivable states where abortion is accessible, with New Mexico and Colorado as the closest.
“There are concerns about who’s going to be able to make that kind of trip, who’s gonna be able to afford it, who is going to be left out and going to be kind of forced into pregnancy in those situations,” she said.
Biden acknowledged the limitations, saying it would require an act of Congress to restore access to abortion in the more than a dozen states where strict limits or total bans have gone into effect in the wake of the court’s ruling. About a dozen other states are set to impose additional restrictions in the coming weeks and months.
“The fastest way to restore Roe is to pass a national law,” Biden said. “The challenge is go out and vote. For God’s sake, there is an election in November. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote!”
At the same time, Biden acknowledged desires from within the Republican party to create a federal ban on abortions now that the right is not constitutionally protected.
U.S. Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Lubbock, vowed to introduce federal legislation similar to what’s already in place in Texas.
“I’d like to introduce it. I’m working on it right now — to take the state of Texas law, which basically prohibits abortion except in the situation where the mother’s life is at risk,” he told Nexstar affiliate KAMC on Thursday. “I’d like to have that the law of the land. I think that is the ideal for me.
Biden said he will veto any such legislation as long as he is president, emphasizing the need for Democrats to maintain their power in Congress.
NewsNation contributed to this report.