In His First Days, Biden Can Make a Difference in Domestic Abortion Policy

Only national legislation enshrining the right to abortion can ensure equitable access for all pregnant people in all states.

In His First Days, Biden Can Make a Difference in Domestic Abortion Policy
A Planned Parenthood rally in NYC in 2011. (Charlotte Cooper / Flickr)

President Biden’s entry into office signals an impending reversal of the restrictive, harmful Mexico City Policy (or global gag rule), which was harmfully expanded by former President Trump at the start of his presidency. While the negative effects of global gag rule are clear, rescinding the foreign policy does nothing for protecting reproductive rights in the U.S. 

With access to abortion care within the U.S under constant attack, immediate and comprehensive federal legislation to protect the reproductive rights of women within our nation must be a first priority.

Abortion rights have been questioned since the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that guaranteed the protection of women’s privacy free from government interference. However, variations in state-level policies prevent sustainable and equitable access to abortion care, particularly for low-income and uninsured women. Twenty-nine states are “hostile” toward abortion rights.  Most women face an “obstacle course” of restrictions—including gestational age bans and TRAP laws which prevent them from receiving the basic health service.


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In 2019, a cascade of early abortion bans were introduced across 15 states. Under the now infamous leadership of Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, the state was the fourth to pass this type of legislation, which is still being litigated. But while early abortions were sweeping across Southern state legislatures in 2019, just one year later, Georgia proved to be a linchpin state for Biden also clinching the Democratic flip of the Senate—suggesting the rise of a new, more progressive South.

Though Roe v. Wade remains enshrined for now, Donald Trump’s three Supreme Court appointees place it in peril. Some states, like Mississippi and Louisiana, are banking on a Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade; to date, 10 states have passed trigger laws which would abolish abortion access overnight.

Given mounting abortion restrictions in state legislatures and growing court challenges the most decisive way to protect the legal rights of women is to enact legislation at the federal level. While arguments over states rights and the overreach of the federal government are a constant, another consideration prevails: Abortion is a public health care good.

Countless studies demonstrate abortion safety; moreover, maternal and infant mortality is definitively higher in states with a greater number of abortion restrictions. Women of color are disproportionately impacted by restricted access to abortion services underscoring the inequity of current abortion policy. Only national legislation enshrining the right to abortion can ensure equitable access for all pregnant people in all states.

President Biden’s first days in office have already proved momentous, including the reversal of many destructive Trump-era policies. As part of his administration’s slate of policies, members of Congress must introduce and pass federal abortion rights legislation.

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About , and

Dabney P. Evans is an Associate Professor in the Hubert Department of Global Health at Emory University.
Subasri Narasimhan, PhD, MPH is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Reproductive Health Research in the Southeast at Emory University.
Liesl Schnabel is a Master of Public Health candidate at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.