(AP) – The state of Texas sued the federal government Thursday after the Biden administration said state law requires hospitals to perform abortions if the procedure is necessary to save a woman’s life, even when state law prohibits the procedure.
The lawsuit, which names the Department of Health and Human Services and Secretary Xavier Becerra among the defendants, alleges that the directive that Biden officials issued earlier this week is unconstitutional, and that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act does not cover abortion.
“The Biden administration wants to turn every emergency room in the country into an abortion clinic,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in announcing the lawsuit. He said the federal government was not allowed to require medical professionals to perform abortions.
Legal disputes worry doctors. Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi, a Dallas-based OB/GYN and former obstetrician, said emergency departments often encounter these situations — when patients experience miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies, or when fluid does not reach the fetus.
“Doctors should not be forced to call a lawyer, call a social worker, call another lawyer, call a hospital administrator when a patient is dying,” he said. “It’s unacceptable.”
The lawsuit comes after Biden’s administration told hospitals on Monday that they “must” provide abortions if the woman’s life is in danger, arguing that state laws on emergency abortions overrule federal laws that are close to banning the procedure, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Abortion is not a legal right.
In a letter to providers, the Department of Health and Human Services said hospitals must determine whether a person seeking care is likely to be at work or is experiencing an emergency — or a potential emergency — and provide care. support. The letter says that if abortion is a necessary treatment to stabilize the patient, it should be done.
“Where state law prohibits abortion and does not include an exception for the life of the pregnant woman — or takes a substantially different approach to EMTALA’s medical emergency definition — the state law is not issued,” the letter said.
The department says its guidance does not reflect new policy, but reminds doctors and providers of what already exists under EMTALA, which was enacted in 1986 and signed by President Ronald Reagan.
But Texas officials disagree, and are asking a judge to set aside the Biden administration’s directive and declare it illegal.
The lawsuit alleges that Biden is “in contempt” of the law and democracy, and that the directive forces “hospitals and doctors to commit crimes and place their license under Texas law.”
The lawsuit said EMTALA does not mandate, regulate or provide any type of coverage, and it does not specifically address abortion.
“Instead, EMTALA presumes that a medical emergency is one that threatens the life of the unborn child,” the lawsuit states. “It is clear that abortion does not protect the life or health of the unborn child.”
The fall of Roe set in motion a Texas law banning all abortions in the coming weeks. Hospitals have tried to continue helping patients in the meantime, but the courts are fighting to keep the 1925 abortion ban in place, which has already prevented many doctors from performing abortions. Abortions will soon be legalized in Texas only when the woman’s life is in danger or if she is at risk of “serious impairment of a major bodily function.”
Laura Hermer, a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. he said Texas is more interested in self-governance than protecting pregnant women.
“It’s dangerous to be pregnant in Texas,” said Laura Hermer, a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Louis. Paul, Minnesota. “People who are pregnant will die in Texas because of Texas’ position on this issue. This is not pro-life. There is nothing pro-life about this.”
Jonathan Turley, a professor at the George Washington University School of Law, said it was surprising that the problem came from the state government. “It’s often the service providers who will challenge any obligation to provide services that are not well established in federal law,” Turley said.
Moayedi, a Dallas physician who is also a member of the Physicians for Reproductive Health organization, said the state’s guidelines are ineffective — and that the Texas case is causing panic among health care providers across the state.
“Health care providers have always been reluctant to perform anything that could be considered an abortion in our state unless they are abortionists,” she said.
The lawsuit alleges that doctors will be forced to choose between violating Texas law — which virtually bans abortion — or jeopardizing their ability to receive Medicare funding. The lawsuit says the federal guidelines also run afoul of the Hyde Amendment, which generally prohibits federal funds from being used to support abortions unless the pregnancy is the result of rape, sex with a family member or the woman’s life is in danger.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said this is an example of a “successful and mature” Republican nominee. He added: “There is no doubt that this administration would say that denying women access to life-saving treatment in emergency rooms is a right protected by US law.”
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.