July 15, 2022 – The state of Texas has filed a lawsuit against the federal government in opposition to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidance that says hospitals are required to provide emergency abortions regardless of state law.
The complaint filed by Texas says that the law cited by the department – the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) – “does not authorize – and has never authorized – the federal government to compel healthcare providers to perform abortions.”
Texas says EMTALA does impose a national standard of care and was put in place to make sure people weren’t denied emergency medical care because they can’t pay. The state is asking a judge to set aside the “defendants’ abortion mandate.”
“The Biden Administration seeks to transform every emergency room in the country into a walk-in abortion clinic,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.
That Health and Human Services guidance issued Monday says EMTALA does require doctors to perform abortions when a pregnant woman’s life or health is threatened, regardless of state law.
Texas has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation. It prohibits abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected, typically after 6 weeks. The law was formulated well before the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down Roe v. Wade and gave states the right to decide on abortion access.
“This is yet another example of an extreme and radical Republican elected official. It is unthinkable that this public official would sue to block women from receiving life-saving care in emergency rooms, a right protected under U.S. law,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement in response to the Texas lawsuit.
The Health and Human Services guidance on abortion came after President Joe Biden on July 8 signed an executive order that aims to push back on efforts in several states to extend abortion restrictions after the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe.
The executive order calls on federal agencies to expand access to reproductive care, crack down on misinformation, and protect the privacy of patients seeking reproductive care.
The lawsuit was filed in the Northern District of Texas. Named as defendants are the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and its secretary, Xavier Becerra; the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS); Karen Tritz, director of the Survey & Operations Group of CMS; and David Wright, director of the Quality, Safety and Oversight Group of CMS.