Biden Announces New Guidelines on Reproductive Privacy
In spite of efforts that have been made by The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (HHS OCR) with respect to ensuring that American citizens could protect their reproductive privacy rights in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade in August of this year, there is still a great deal of confusion as it concerns the legal ramifications of receiving an abortion within any given U.S. state. For this reason, President Biden announced on October 4, 2022, that his administration would be taking new steps to enhance the reproductive privacy rights of the nation’s millions of citizens.
More specifically, “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.”
Student access to reproductive care
While the privacy guidelines that were issued by the HHS OCR in August of this year pertained to all American citizens as it concerns the legal ramifications of receiving an abortion across the country, President Biden also highlighted the need to safeguard the reproductive privacy rights of women that are currently enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities. To this end, due to the fact that states around the country retain the right to outlaw the practice of abortion within their respective jurisdictions, many women that attend college in states that have made abortion illegal have voiced their concerns about their ability to exercise their reproductive healthcare rights in a safe and effective manner.
To illustrate this point further, President Biden called out the University of Idaho this past Tuesday, as Idaho is one of many states around the country that has elected to make the practice of abortion a punishable offense. This being said, an email that was sent to students and faculty members by the University of Idaho administration on September 23, 2022, reportedly stated that “They are no longer allowed to “promote abortion”. They are no longer allowed to “counsel in favor of abortion”. They are no longer allowed to tell students, or anyone else, where to get an abortion; they are no longer allowed to dispense emergency contraception, like Plan B.”
Changes to states laws across the country
For reference, in addition to banning the practice of abortion within the state of Idaho, recently enacted legislation also “forbids any state resources or state employees’ time from being spent “promoting” or “advertising” either abortion or “services for the prevention of conception.” Subsequently, the current fight for reproductive privacy rights within the state of Idaho is representative of the potential issues that other citizens around the U.S. stand to face, as the topic at hand is not as simple as making the practice of abortion illegal. Subsequently, changes that have been made to the law within Idaho have also adversely affected the ability of women that reside within the state to exercise their reproductive privacy rights in a very general sense.
Title IX and privacy
What’s more, changes that U.S. states are making to abortion laws would also appear to contradict many federal laws that are geared toward protecting the privacy and civil rights of American citizens. For instance, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was intended to protect the civil rights of women that attend educational institutions within the U.S., and the manner in which the law should apply to women that are seeking academic accommodations with respect to abortions has not been made clear. For example, a woman who attends school in a state such as Idaho that has banned the practice of abortion should still theoretically have the right to seek an abortion in another state that has not made the practice illegal.
While the proposed changes that the Biden administration will make to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 will not be enough to provide every American citizen with the assurance that their reproductive privacy rights will not be violated, they are undoubtedly a step in the right direction. To this point, much more will need to be done in order to give women within the U.S. the peace of mind that they will be able to exercise their reproductive healthcare rights in the fashion they most see fit, irrespective of the state in which they currently reside. Furthermore, making sure that citizens within the U.S. can access safe and reliable healthcare services should be the top priority at all times.