- Biden has already within his first 100 days nixed several Trump-era policies on reproductive issues.
- His administration is also planning to entrench those reproductive rights into federal policy.
- Some actions will take more than an executive order or require Congressional action.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Many of the Trump administration’s restrictive policies on gender, LGBTQ rights, and reproductive healthcare are headed out the door under President Joe Biden, several of them during his first 100 days in office.
In April alone his administration lifted Trump-era restrictions on telemedicine abortions, authorized government scientists to use fetal tissue for medical research, and moved to allow clinics that provide abortions to once again access federal family planning funds.
Biden’s actions on reproductive rights and gender equality started on his first day in office. The president signed an executive order directing federal agencies to scrap any policies that allow for discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
Less than a week after his inauguration, Biden reversed a Trump-era ban on transgender people serving in the military. In the executive order, Biden said he believed “gender identity should not be a bar to military service.”
His Cabinet and White House picks signal his seriousness about turning the tide on gender issues: He’s nominated several women to key roles, including Rachel Levine as assistant secretary of health at the Department of Health and Human Services. Levine’s confirmation by the Senate made her the highest-ranking transgender official in a US government position. And she’ll likely play a key role in shaping transgender healthcare.
“To all transgender Americans watching at home, especially young people who are so brave, I want you to know your president has your back,” Biden said during his remarks to a Joint Session of Congress on Wednesday.
His administration has signaled there’s more to come, including on abortion rights, even though he didn’t make any pledges about the issue when he spoke to Congress.
Biden, a devout Catholic, had a mixed record on abortion over his more than 35-year history in government and initially stumbled during the primary race on whether he supported the Democratic platform to allow federal funding to pay for abortion care.
But as his party continues its leftward shift, Biden is expected to go further on reproductive rights than his Democratic predecessors. Here are key areas that Biden’s team could change or is already in the process of modifying.
Revoking the Mexico City policy
The Reagan-era Mexico City policy bans US international aid from going toward organizations that “perform or promote” abortions.
Critics describe it as the “global gag rule.” The policy allows providers to discuss abortions only if someone has already decided to terminate a pregnancy and seeks information about where to go.
Republican presidents since Ronald Reagan have instituted the ban, and Democratic presidents including Biden have reversed it. The policy allows exemptions for rape, incest, or when a pregnancy is life-threatening.
Trump reinstated and expanded the policy further than his GOP predecessors. In the past, the rule applied only to roughly $600 million in family-planning funds. Under Trump, it extended to $9 billion in programs the US spends on international healthcare aid. That included organizations dedicated to fighting HIV, malaria, and malnutrition.
Critics say the policies force organizations that discuss or offer abortions to choose between funding or ending their services. They say the ban is dangerous, pointing to unsafe abortions around the world that contribute to maternal deaths in low-income countries.
In September, the Trump administration proposed extending the policy not just to grants and cooperative agreements but also government contractors, which would affect even more organizations.
Biden signed a reversal of the Trump rules on January 28.
Reversing Trump’s ban on transgender troops
One of the most criticized and controversial policies Trump issued was blocking transgender or transitioning troops from joining the military. He abruptly tweeted his intent to bar them from service in July 2017, saying the military would be “burdened” by transgender people. It was a stark reversal from President Barack Obama’s decision to allow these troops to join the military and serve openly.
The Department of Defense subsequently put the rule into effect in spring 2019. While the rule allowed transgender soldiers who had already joined or were receiving hormone therapy or mental-health support at the time of implementation to continue their service and treatment, any new people who enlisted would have to serve under the sex assigned to them at birth and be denied relevant necessary medical or mental healthcare.
The Palm Center, a nonpartisan think tank for LGBTQ military policy, called the ban “insidious” and described it as a “perfect parallel to the failed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy,” a much-criticized, now defunct rule from the Clinton administration that prevented LGBTQ troops from serving openly and deterred them from joining the armed forces.
Biden reversed the Trump-era policy on January 25 through an executive order.
Expanding anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people
The Supreme Court ruled last year that gay and transgender employees were covered by the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination “because of sex.” The Trump administration interpreted the decision as applying only to employment.
But Biden on his first day in office signed an executive order saying gay and transgender people were also protected against discrimination in schools and healthcare services. Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, had rolled back protections for transgender students and stopped investigating complaints from those who said they weren’t allowed to use restrooms that aligned with their gender identity.
Biden already has signaled a shift on inclusion regardless of gender identity with his Levine nomination.
Removing moral and religious exemptions to birth-control coverage under Obamacare
The Trump administration let employers deny their workers
insurance coverage if they had religious objections. The rule also extended to employers with moral objections, though not to publicly traded companies or government entities.
Reproductive-rights groups waged legal challenges, but the Supreme Court upheld the exemptions. The Biden administration can still scrap and rewrite the rules because they were instituted under a provision in the Affordable Care Act.
The healthcare law stipulates that the Department of Health and Human Services can decide the type of preventive care health insurance plans should cover without charging patients copays.
Previously, the Obama administration determined that all forms of birth control should get covered fully by insurance, from the contraceptive pill to intrauterine devices and emergency contraception. The rule had exemptions for houses of worship but not religious organizations such as Catholic hospitals or charities, many of which object to birth control.
Removing abortion restrictions from Title X funding
The Biden administration has started to undo a Trump administration rule that banned federal family-planning dollars in the Title X program from going to organizations that refer people to abortion care. It also required that healthcare organizations house abortion services in a separate building from their other medical services.
Title X money pays for birth control, testing of sexually transmitted infections, and cancer screenings for 4 million low-income adults. It does not pay for abortions.
But the Trump administration’s rule was primarily directed at stripping federal dollars from Planned Parenthood, which has been a political punching bag for conservatives for decades. Republicans and abortion foes have repeatedly tried to cut off federal funding from the organization with the political rallying cry: “Defund Planned Parenthood.”
Planned Parenthood ended up turning down roughly $60 million in annual Title X funding rather than complying with the rule.
Women’s healthcare providers and critics of the policy labeled it the “domestic gag rule.” The changes “slashed the Title X national family planning network’s patient capacity in half,” according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.
The Biden administration on April 14 announced that it would begin reversing the Trump rules, but it’ll take many months because by law it will need to review them, gather public comment, issue a draft, and then finalize new rules.
Lifting restrictions on the abortion pill
The Biden administration announced on April 13 that it would be allowing doctors and other healthcare providers to prescribe abortion pills to patients over
, without requiring an in-person visit. The move is temporary and intended to make abortion access easier during the coronavirus pandemic.
Before the pandemic, a Food and Drug Administration rule stipulated that medication abortions had to be given to patients in a healthcare setting such as a doctor’s office. Patients are allowed to take the drug at home but have to sign a form saying they were counseled about it.
People were obtaining abortions remotely via telemedicine during the coronavirus pandemic, where they talked to a doctor over video and then received the pills in the mail. The Trump administration tried to enforce the FDA’s restrictions and on January 13 got support from the conservative-leaning Supreme Court.
The FDA then loosened regulations on the abortion pill under the Biden administration. It might choose to do so even once the pandemic is over so that women can privately have abortions or access them in rural parts of the US with few healthcare providers. The pill, mifepristone, is used within 10 weeks of pregnancy in combination with a second drug, misoprostol, for abortions or miscarriage management.
Changing Education Department policy on campus sexual assault under Title IX
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex at federally funded schools. In recent years, it’s been used to address issues of sexual assault on campus.
As vice president, Biden spearheaded the Obama administration’s policy initiatives on reducing campus sexual assault and creating reporting mechanisms for students. In an attempt to encourage people to come forward and to reform the reporting and disciplinary process for assault and harassment, Obama made several major changes, including broadening the definition of what constituted sexual assault and harassment and issuing guidance that colleges should lower the standard of “preponderance of the evidence” during disciplinary proceedings.
While activists campaigning to end campus sexual assault praised the changes, Obama’s policies faced criticism from some lawyers, civil-liberties groups, and others for what they described as skewing in favor of accusers and failing to give the accused people due process.
In 2017, DeVos proposed rule changes that would roll back Obama’s policies. Her proposal unleashed a fierce debate and drew more than 100,000 public comments, which dragged the process out for years until 2020, when DeVos’ new rules were finalized.
The final version narrowed the definition of sexual assault, pushed federally funded schools to create a process resembling a judicial system where accusers could be cross-examined, and prevented people from both investigating and judging claims.
Biden’s campaign platform specifically called out DeVos’ changes and vowed to revoke them.
His campaign wrote the Trump Education Department was “trying to shame and silence survivors, and take away parents’ peace of mind” and that its actions guaranteed “that college campuses will be less safe for our nation’s young people.”
But the complete process for reversing the Trump administration’s stance could take several years and may spark another contentious debate in the world of higher education.
Coaxing Congress to gut the Hyde Amendment
Biden could use his budget proposal to call on Congress to toss out the Hyde Amendment, a rider attached to spending bills that would prevent most federal funding to pay for abortions. He didn’t do so during his Joint Session speech on Wednesday.
Critics, including many Democrats, say the provision unjustly hits low-income people who don’t have the means to pay for abortions. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has never held a vote on gutting the Hyde Amendment, given that centrist Democrats view it as controversial to use federal dollars to pay for abortion care.
Biden could also roll back an executive order on the Hyde Amendment that Obama once signed as a trade-off to help get the Affordable Care Act across the finish line. Rather than add Hyde to the ACA, the executive order directed that the money used for the healthcare law couldn’t directly subsidize coverage for abortion care.
Using fetal tissue for medical research
Scientists use cells derived from fetal tissue to assist with a range of discoveries, including on HIV and cancer. Research using fetal tissue helped to bring about the vaccine that prevents rubella and was used to test some of the coronavirus vaccines.
The Biden administration’s decision issued by the National Institutes of Health mostly reverses 2019 Trump administration rules that restricted new purchases of fetal cells and tissue in government labs.
While the rule was imposed mainly on medical researchers who worked for the government, the Trump administration also began asking outside scientists who received government grants to justify their use of fetal tissue. It also set up an ethics board largely made up of anti-abortion advocates to oversee the projects.
The latest rule from the Biden administration scraps the ethics panel but still requires outside scientists to justify the use of fetal tissue.
Business News Governmental News Finance News