Responding to the urgency of now, President Joe Biden has been churning out executive orders left and right since his inauguration last week. In his latest round of decrees, Biden rescinded the Mexico City policy, also known as the “global gag rule,” in a presidential memorandum.
The policy prevents non-governmental organizations that receive U.S. aid from providing abortion-related services that include counseling, advocacy and referrals. The rule prevents those organizations from spending even their own money on such services.
Biden has also directed the Department of Health and Human Services to review policies implemented during the Trump Administration that limited funding for providers domestically that offered services related to abortion referrals and advocacy and other family planning services.
Jennifer Driver, Senior Director of Reproductive Rights at the State Innovation Exchange (SiX), spoke with NewsOne about the impact of the president’s executive order.
“No matter what you look like or where you were born, we all have the right to have a child, the right to not have a child, and the right to raise that child in a safe and healthy environment,” Driver said. “While the Biden administration is taking steps in the right direction with this executive order, there’s so much more we need to be doing to get us to a future where we all thrive.”
Black women have long called for equity in conversations of expanded reproductive access. Driver echoed these sentiments and said, like upholding Roe v. Wade, rescinding the gag rule was only a first step. Discussions about reproductive rights and justice must not overlook low income and communities of color.
A report produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation shortly before the Trump rule was set to go into effect revealed that those served by Title X funded institutions were predominantly non-white and characterized as low-income or poor. It was estimated that 4 million people received care from such facilities nationwide.
Driver says that aggressive steps are necessary to tackle the Black maternal health crisis.
Bridgett Todd, communications director at UltraViolet, a support organization for the Blueprint for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice, a comprehensive policy agenda for reproductive health, offered a similar sentiment in a statement.
“The administration [needs] to move with the urgency this moment requires to ensure access to abortion and reproductive healthcare for all against mounting threats both in the U.S. and abroad,” Todd said.
Both Driver and Todd pointed to the discriminatory and racist barriers to abortion and medical abortion access such as the Hyde, Weldon and Helms amendments that block people with low incomes.
Todd called the actions by the new administration a good step toward undoing harm but said the current devastation of the pandemic, the economic crisis and a history of systemic racism demands more.
“We must continue to cement these rights and dismantle the policies implemented by men like Donald Trump to deny the world’s most vulnerable communities the right to abortion and other critical forms of reproductive healthcare in the US and abroad,” Todd said.
Driver called for an end to manufactured politics of scarcity led by extremist politicians that divide our communities. She said the battle is much larger than simply the legality of abortion.
“We envision a future where each of us can make our own decisions about our reproductive health, pregnancy, and parenting, free from political interference and violence, and we view this as intrinsically woven into the broader progressive fabric of gender equity, economic justice, and racial equity,” concluded Driver.