President Biden issues an executive order to protect reproductive health care access, New York State Supreme Court rules against the New York Department of Health’s quarantine procedures, and more…
IN THE NEWS
President Joseph R. Biden issued an executive order designed to protect access to reproductive health care services. The order directed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ensure access to medication abortion, contraception, and emergency medical care by promoting awareness of patients’ rights and information about federally funded reproductive health care providers. The order also instructed other agencies to coordinate with HHS to protect patients’ private medical information, convene volunteer lawyers, and promote safety and security for patients, providers, and clinics. In announcing the order, President Biden said that protecting and defending reproductive rights is “essential to justice, equality, and our health, safety, and progress as a nation.”
New York State Supreme Court Judge Ronald Ploetz ruled that the New York State Department of Health had exceeded its authority in establishing isolation and quarantine procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic. The constitutionality of the state regulation, which gave the Department of Health the power to issue quarantine and isolation orders even without evidence a person was currently infected, had been challenged in a lawsuit filed by three Republican state lawmakers. In his ruling, Judge Ploetz wrote that these measures extended “beyond the public health law governing these types of orders that was already on the books before the pandemic.”
The U.S. Department of Justice announced a reproductive rights task force composed of representatives of various federal agencies. The task force intends to monitor state and local legislation and enforcement actions that limit reproductive care where it is currently legal. The task force also aims to protect individuals’ ability to discuss their options for reproductive care in other states and will evaluate state and local actions that infringe on federal protections of reproductive care. In addition, the task force plans to identify and coordinate federal responses to state and local actions infringing on reproductive care, including assisting Congress with federal legislation to codify reproductive rights. The Justice Department concluded that the best way to protect reproductive freedom is through congressional action.
- The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued guidance reinforcing physician and hospital obligations to provide reproductive care to pregnant patients under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act. CMS stated that, regardless of any state law outlawing abortion, the federal statute requires hospitals and emergency departments to provide necessary stabilizing treatments to individuals who are experiencing an emergency medical condition. If physicians find that an abortion is the necessary stabilizing treatment for a condition, such as an ectopic pregnancy, they may be required to provide such treatment. The guidance indicates that federal statutory provisions preempt state laws that might define emergency medical conditions differently or that prohibit abortions. Xavier Becerra, HHS Secretary, assured health care workers that federal law will serve to protect their medical judgment regardless of state law. The Texas Attorney General has filed a lawsuit challenging the guidance’s interpretation of the Act as an unlawful “abortion mandate.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received its first-ever application from a pharmaceutical company seeking approval to sell a birth control pill without requiring a doctor’s prescription. The application comes after the company, HRA Pharma, conducted six years of studies to demonstrate, in accordance with FDA requirements, that consumers could understand the drug’s label and use it correctly without a doctor’s guidance. FDA’s review process is expected to take at least 10 months, meaning the pill could become available by the middle of next year. Frédérique Welgryn, HRA Pharma’s chief strategic and innovation officer, called the review a “rigorous and long process” but noted that making the drug available over the counter “matters now more than ever.”
The U.S. Department of Education proposed several new regulations that would improve student loan relief programs. One rule would limit interest capitalization, which is the practice of adding already accrued interest to the original loan balance so that loan servicers can calculate future interest using the higher amount. In addition, the proposed rule would improve borrowers’ access to courts by prohibiting lenders from including certain dispute resolution clauses in their loan contracts and helping borrowers obtain relief by loosening restrictions on debt relief programs. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said the proposed regulations “will protect borrowers and save them time, money, and frustration, and will hold their colleges responsible for wrongdoing.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation released a bill of rights for airline passengers with disabilities. Rather than creating or expanding rights, the bill of rights collects existing law and condenses it into an organized summary for individuals to navigate. The bill of rights includes, for example, the right to receive information about an aircraft’s assistive devices and to travel with a service animal. Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Transportation, described the bill of rights as one of “the latest steps toward ensuring an air travel system that works for everyone.”
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a new initiative to improve safety at several construction sites that have experienced construction-related worker fatalities due to falls. According to the Labor Department, falls from elevation represent one of the construction industry’s most dangerous hazards. To combat these risks, OSHA will now conduct weekend safety investigations because many employers do not thoroughly monitor job sites on weekends. Jennifer Rous, a regional administrator for OSHA, noted this effort will “ensure that workers are protected from needless injuries or worse.”
WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK
In a report issued by the Center for American Progress (CAP), Trinh Q. Truong, a research assistant at CAP, examined the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Alternatives to Detention program, which allows immigrants awaiting their asylum hearings to be placed on supervised release instead of in a detention center. Truong argues the program must be reformed to allow immigrants and asylum-seekers to access the services needed to settle their immigration cases without infringing on their civil liberties. Currently, participants in the program are electronically monitored by ICE through ankle monitors, telephone calls, and smartphone applications. Truong asserted that community-based case management services could ensure compliance with immigration authorities in a manner that is both more humane and cost-effective than electronic monitoring. Truong noted the invasive nature of electronic monitoring has led to concerns that immigrants may consider the program to be a form of “e-carceration” due to the mobility restrictions it imposes.
In a Brookings Institution report, Cameron F. Kerry, a visiting fellow at Brookings’s Center for Technology Innovation, proposed that pending privacy legislation may address post-Dobbs reproductive privacy concerns by limiting the use of health information data. Kerry posited that the American Privacy and Data Protection Act is the pending legislation that is most likely to accomplish this goal because it protects “sensitive data” about individuals’ physical and mental health, disability status, and healthcare treatments and conditions, including reproductive health information. Kerry explained that only “limited, necessary, and proportionate” use, collection, and sharing of such data would be allowed if this legislation passes, and he indicated that express consent from users would be required to share this data with third parties. Overall, Kerry argued that, although Dobbs has raised privacy concerns, data protective legislation may provide an answer.
In a Regulatory Studies Center working paper, George Washington University professor Tara M. Sinclair and senior policy analyst at the Center, Zhoudan Xie, examined the relationship between public sentiment and uncertainty about U.S. regulations and macroeconomic performance. Sinclair and Xie measured public sentiment by attaching a sentiment value to word choices and frequency in over 400,000 news articles related to U.S. regulations between 1985 and 2020. They found that increased uncertainty surrounding labor and workplace regulation was adversely related to the overall value of goods and services, as well as employment rates. Sinclair and Xie suggested that sentiment about regulation, however, affects the economy more than uncertainty about regulation does by leading to larger impacts on similar economic outputs.
In an essay in The Regulatory Review, Doron Dorfman, an associate professor at Seton Hall Law, and Thomas F. Burke, a professor of political science at Wellesley College, discussed the ongoing struggle to implement protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the United States. To show that ADA noncompliance went unaddressed in New York City for 30 years after the ADA’s enactment, Dorfman and Burke pointed to a court ruling from 2020 that found that New York City had violated the ADA by not installing audible devices to announce safety to cross at crosswalks. They noted that ADA enforcement has been stalled by subpar compliance measures and decades of legal and political debate over how to interpret the law’s text. For example, they argued that the words “reasonable accommodation” within the ADA have been interpreted in a very limited manner. Dorfman and Burke suggested that the struggle to enforce the ADA will continue.