Updated Aug 24, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Federal judge blocks HHS emergency abortion guidance

Protesters march while holding signs during an abortion-rights rally on June 25, 2022 in Austin, Texa

Protesters march during an abortion-rights rally on June 25 in Austin, Texas. Photo: Sergio Flores/Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas this week blocked the Biden administration from enforcing guidance saying that health providers who perform abortions in emergency situations are protected under federal law, despite state bans.

Driving the news: U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix in Lubbock, Texas, sided with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) in saying that the guidance, released by the Department of Health and Human Services last month, was unauthorized, Reuters reports.

  • The judge barred HHS from enforcing the guidance, called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, in Texas.

The big picture: HHS last month released the guidance in an attempt to give assurances to abortion providers who fear they could be prosecuted for offering potentially life-saving care, Axios' Oriana Gonzalez reports.

  • Texas subsequently sued the Biden administration to challenge its guidance, writing in its lawsuit that the administration is attempting to "use federal law to transform every emergency room in the country into a walk-in abortion clinic."

What he's saying: "That guidance goes well beyond EMTALA’s text, which protects both mothers and unborn children, is silent as to abortion, and preempts state law only when the two directly conflict," Hendrix wrote.

The other side: "Because of this decision, women in Texas may now be denied this vital care," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement on Wednesday.

  • "It’s wrong, it’s backwards, and women may die as a result. The fight is not over. The President will continue to push to require hospitals to provide life-saving and health-preserving reproductive care."
  • "Congress must listen to the will of the American people and pass a law restoring the protections of Roe v. Wade," she continued.
  • "That is ultimately the only way right now to secure a woman’s right to choose, but the President will continue to take meaningful action now to protect women’s access to reproductive health care."

Go deeper: Life-saving abortions OK despite state bans, Biden administration says

Editor's note: This story has been updated with a statement from White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

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