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Biden signs executive order aimed at safeguarding abortion access and providing guidance to health care providers

Evan Vucci AP

(CNN) -- President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order to help ensure access to abortion in light of the Supreme Court's decision earlier this summer to eliminate the constitutional right to the procedure.

The President said the order will help women travel out of state to receive abortions, ensures health care providers comply with federal law so women aren't delayed in getting care and advances research and data collection "to evaluate the impact that this reproductive health crisis is having on maternal health and other health conditions."

Biden signed the executive order during the inaugural meeting of the administration's recently established Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access, a task force comprised of representatives from multiple departments across the federal government. Cabinet members are also expected to brief the President on steps their respective agencies have taken "to defend reproductive rights" at Wednesday's meeting, an administration official told reporters Tuesday.

The order directs Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to consider "all appropriate actions to ensure health care providers comply with federal non-discrimination laws so that women receive medically necessary care without delay," including steps to provide health care providers with technical and legal guidance amid the patchwork of state legal restrictions on abortion care following the Supreme Court's decision.

Last month, CNN reported doctors have struggled to navigate byzantine guidance as states across the country pass increasingly strict abortion restrictions, with experts warning of "an enormous chilling effect" on doctors performing miscarriage surgeries even when doctors "are confident that what they're doing is within the letter of the law."

Wednesday's order also directs HHS to consider actions guaranteeing women traveling across state lines seeking abortions have access to health care services, including through Medicaid. Last month, a bill guaranteeing women the right to travel across state lines to seek abortions failed to pass the Senate after Republicans blocked the measure.

Per the official, that would allow states to provide care for out-of-state patients seeking abortions through a Medicaid 1115 waiver, permitting states to waive certain state-based requirements in providing care and assist in covering "certain costs."

The executive order further directs HHS to expand research efforts on maternal health data, "to accurately measure the impact that diminishing access to reproductive health care services has on women's health," the official said Tuesday.

Wednesday's executive order is the second one signed by Biden in the wake of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Last month, Biden signed an order that he said would safeguard access to abortion care and contraceptives, protect patient privacy and establish an interagency task force to use "every federal tool available to protect access to reproductive health care."

Ultimately, however, there is no action the President can take to restore the nationwide right to an abortion, and Biden has publicly acknowledged that his options to expand abortion access remain limited.

This is a breaking story and will be updated.

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