Education Department Reinforces Title IX Protections For Abortion And Pregnancy

Grace Panetta, Errin Haines, The 19th

The Biden-Harris administration issued fresh guidance Tuesday reinforcing the legal protections for pregnancy and abortion under Title IX as it recognizes the 100-day milestone since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

The guidance for higher education institutions from the Department of Education, shared first with The 19th, reiterates the legal protections against discrimination against pregnancy — or the termination of a pregnancy — under Title IX. The fact sheet released by the department also reminds universities that they must treat pregnancy, childbirth and abortion “the same as any temporary disability” under the health insurance plans they offer to students and faculty.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris led a second meeting of the Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access on Tuesday afternoon. In public remarks before the roundtable met privately, they reaffirmed their commitment to defending abortion rights and urged Americans to vote in November, saying it was necessary to allow Democrats to pass a federal law to protect abortion access.

“It is important for everyone to know what is at stake,” Harris said. “To stop and reverse these attacks on women, we need to pass a national law. And so we need the American people to make their voices heard and take a stand on the rights of all women to exercise their choice to have access to reproductive health care.”

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona told the roundtable that he is “worried” over what he sees as “the chilling effect” of the ruling.

“It’s clear: The Dobbs ruling has sown fear, confusion and distrust on our college campuses,” Cardona said, adding that his department is “fully committed” to enforcing the protections of Title IX.

“Today, I want to be clear with college leaders in America: Access to contraception should not be in question,” Cardona continued. “Access to health care, including reproductive health care, is critical to the well-being and success of our nation’s students.”

Biden and Harris also singled out the University of Idaho for its new policy of no longer providing birth control to students. Lawyers at the university advised the school not to give students contraceptive health care, citing the state’s strict ban on abortion and additional legal penalties for state employees who refer students for abortion care, The Washington Post reported. 

“My message to any other colleges considering enacting policies like this: Don’t. Please don’t,” Biden said at the Tuesday roundtable. “We’re not going to sit by and let colleges throughout the country enact extreme policies.”

The guidance comes as the Biden administration continues to grapple with the fallout of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June.  A separate memo released Tuesday from Jennifer Klein, head of the White House’s Gender Policy Council, outlines the state of abortion rules and the Biden administration’s efforts to shore up access under federal laws and regulations.

But both memos also underscore the limited tools the Biden administration has to bolster abortion access, as over a dozen Republican-controlled states have banned or severly restricted the procedure since late June.

 

This story has been edited for length. Read the full story at The 19th

 

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