An executive order signed by President Joe Biden on Friday intended to protect access to reproductive health care services takes aim at states that have banned or severely restricted abortion in the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, according to the White House.

Utah’s “trigger law,” which bans most abortions, is temporarily on hold after 3rd District Court Judge Andrew Stone issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the Utah law from going into effect for two weeks.

A hearing on a request for a preliminary injunction is scheduled Monday.

The state’s memorandum in opposition to Planned Parenthood Association of Utah’s motion for preliminary injunction released Friday tees up some of the state’s arguments against the civil rights complaint, primarily that the Utah Constitution does not expressly protect a right to abortion, nor does it protect an implied right to abortion.

Moreover, the state’s response cites criminal statutes outlawing abortion that date back to the 1890s, which were in effect until the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in 1973 that recognized women’s constitutional right to abortion, the memo states.

The Utah Legislature’s passed SB174 in 2020, which once again made abortion a crime in Utah after the Supreme Court ruled to overturn Roe in a 5-4 decision and uphold Mississippi’s restrictive abortion law in a 6-3 decision.

SB174 bans abortion on demand but permits these exceptions: if the mother’s life is at risk; if the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest; or if two maternal-fetal medicine physicians both determine that a fetus “has a defect that is uniformly diagnosable and uniformly lethal or ... has a severe brain abnormality that is uniformly diagnosable.”

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Meanwhile Biden’s executive order aims to safeguard access to reproductive health care services nationwide, including access to surgical and medication abortion and contraception; protecting patient privacy and access to accurate information; promoting the safety of patients, providers and facilities, and coordinating federal efforts to protect reproductive rights and access to health care, according to a statement by the White House.

The executive order also states that the Biden administration will convene private pro bono attorneys, bar associations and public interest organizations to help provide legal representation to patients, providers and third parties “lawfully seeking or offering reproductive health care services throughout the country.”

The executive order dismissed a proposal by leading Democrats in the Senate and House who urged Biden to permit abortion services on federal land in states where the procedure is banned. The federal government controls about 63% of the land in the state of Utah, which is a well-established Republican stronghold.

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CNN reported that using federal lands for abortion services would have “dangerous ramifications,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

The White House fact sheet reiterates earlier statements by the president that “Americans must remain free to travel safely to another state to seek the care they need” and “his commitment to fighting any attack by a state or local official who attempts to interfere with women exercising this right.”

For women in Salt Lake County, the closest abortion clinics along a major thoroughfare would be in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, along I-70, and in Steamboat Springs on U.S. 40.

Abortion providers in states in which access to abortion services is ensured under their state laws have reported they have been planning for increased numbers of patients from states that have imposed bans, but waits for services remain a concern.

According to The Denver Post, abortion providers in Colorado say they’ve been inundated with requests for abortion appointments and are also seeing an increase in appointments for birth control strategies such as vasectomies or intrauterine devices.

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The memorandum also reiterated that Biden does not support expanding the Supreme Court, as many progressives have championed.

According to the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services will consider additional federal medical privacy laws “to better protect sensitive information related to reproductive health care.”

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Efforts are in place to issue a how-to guide for consumers to protect their personal data on mobile apps, according to the White House.

Planned Parenthood sues to block Utah’s ‘trigger law’ abortion ban

Jacqueline Ayers, the senior vice president of policy, organizing and campaigns at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, responded to the executive order in a statement:

“We’re in a national health care crisis and need officials at every level of government to do everything within their authority to fight for access to abortion. Amid the Supreme Court stripping Americans of their constitutional right to abortion after nearly 50 years, we need an urgent and robust response to ensure people get the essential health care they need.

“Planned Parenthood is encouraged the administration is reaffirming its commitment to abortion access and looks forward to working toward implementation of these and other strategies to address this crisis.”

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