Jul 14, 2022 - Health

Texas sues Biden administration over guidance on emergency abortions

Picture of Ken Paxton
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Texas state officials on Thursday filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration to challenge its recent guidance telling health providers that they can perform abortions in emergency cases and be protected under federal law, despite the bans in their states.

Driving the news: While current bans on abortion offer exceptions for certain medical emergencies, health providers have faced questions determining what qualifies as an emergency under a state ban.

Catch up fast: The Department of Health and Human Services, in response to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, said that under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), abortions can be performed in emergency situations.

  • Senior HHS officials on Monday told reporters that EMTALA preempts state laws, including state restrictions that might not offer any exceptions.

What they're saying: "Biden is attempting to twist federal law to force abortions in [Texas]," the state's attorney general, Ken Paxton, said in a tweet.

  • The Supreme Court "returned the issue to states. ... Biden's HHS is attempting to undo all that. Not on my watch," Paxton added.

"Federal law is clear: patients, no matter where they live, have the right to emergency care — including abortion care, if their doctor deems it necessary," an HHS spokesperson said in a statement to Axios.

  • "HHS stands unwavering in our commitment to protecting patients’ right to access the health- and life-saving care that they need and that is protected by federal law."

Details: The Biden administration is attempting to "use federal law to transform every emergency room in the country into a walk-in abortion clinic," the lawsuit says.

  • "President Biden is flagrantly disregarding the legislative and democratic process — and flouting the Supreme Court's ruling before the ink is dry — by having his appointed bureaucrats mandate that hospitals and emergency medicine physicians must perform abortions."
  • EMTALA "does not authorize — and has never authorized — the federal government to compel health care providers to perform abortions."
  • Texas is asking the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas to declare that the administration's guidance is "unlawful" and block the federal government from enforcing it.

Worth noting: White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reacted to the lawsuit, calling it "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," she added.

Read Texas' lawsuit:

Editor's note: This story has been updated with a statement from White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and the Department of Health and Human Services.

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