Texas has sued the Biden administration over guidance issued earlier this week which gave doctors nationwide greater latitude to perform abortions, claiming that the federal law preempts state abortion bans in some situations.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, who previously served as California’s chief prosecutor, issued guidance on Monday claiming that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) may preempt state abortion bans in some instances.
The HHS secretary’s guidance came in response to the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade, returning the issue of abortion to the states.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is challenging Becerra’s guidance in court and has accused the Biden administration of attempting to supersede state authority to regulate abortion through bureaucratic mandate.
“This administration has a hard time following the law, and now they are trying to have their appointed bureaucrats mandate that hospitals and emergency medicine physicians perform abortions,” Paxton said in a statement.
“I will ensure that President Biden will be forced to comply with the Supreme Court’s important decision concerning abortion and I will not allow him to undermine and distort existing laws to fit his administration’s unlawful agenda,” he added.
The Biden administration responded to Paxton’s lawsuit via a statement from White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
“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,” Jean-Pierre claimed in the statement.
Becerra issued a letter alongside the guidance stating that healthcare providers are protected under federal law to be able to conduct abortions in the case of medical emergencies as defined by the EMTALA.
“It is critical that providers know that a physician or other qualified medical personnel’s professional and legal duty to provide stabilizing medical treatment to a patient who presents to the emergency department and is found to have an emergency medical condition preempts any directly conflicting state law or mandate that might otherwise prohibit such treatment,” the HHS secretary said in the letter.
“Any state laws or mandates that employ a more restrictive definition of an emergency medical condition are preempted by the EMTALA statute,” Becerra added.
Of course, the HHS secretary is completely ignoring the fact that the Texas abortion ban, like every single abortion ban or restriction that has been enacted thus far, has an exemption carved out for medical emergencies. So, if his guidance is truly about “medical emergencies,” and not supplanting state authority, it is completely unnecessary.
Paxton’s lawsuit describes the federal health guidance as an “attempt to use federal law to transform every emergency room in the country into a walk-in abortion clinic,” and points out that Texas’ law banning abortion already has an exemption for cases when the life of the mother is at risk.
The state law “does not apply if the woman on whom the abortion is performed ‘has a life-threatening physical condition’ arising from a pregnancy that places her ‘at risk of death or poses a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function unless the abortion is performed,’” the lawsuit states.