Dr. Natalia Kanem, the executive director of the United Nations Population Fund, said the decision would greatly aid the agency’s work not only in family planning but also in other health services for women and girls in poor countries.
“We now have the support of a very important Member State,” said Dr. Kanem in a telephone interview.
The rule has ridden a philosophical seesaw for decades – in place when a Republican occupies the White House, and overturned when a Democrat moves in.
Mr Biden also directed the Department of Health and Human Services “to consider as soon as possible whether to suspend, revise, or lift the so-called domestic gag rule” – a set of regulations imposed by the Trump administration and the federal ban-funded family planning clinics that advise patients about abortion.
The Guttmacher Institute, which tracks access to abortion, wrote last year that the rules apply
Halving the patient capacity of the national family planning network, putting 1.6 million patients across the country at risk. The presidential policy practically guarantees that the health department will repeal these rules, although this can take months.
The president’s order will also direct federal agencies to review policies, including exemptions for states, prohibiting participation in Medicaid, the public health insurance program for the poor and disabled. Enrollment with Medicaid has increased significantly during the pandemic, also because people who have lost their jobs and health insurance have turned to them.
The Trump administration approved exemptions in 12 states that require certain Medicaid beneficiaries to work at least an hour a week or else they risk losing their benefits. Four of these pilot programs have already been overturned by the courts, and the Biden administration has powers to end them all, though the Trump administration has taken steps in recent weeks to complicate this process.
Another waiver, completed in Tennessee this month, would provide that state with fixed funding – or a block grant – to cover its Medicaid population while relaxing many of the rules for running the program. This waiver could also be waived.