Texas is suing the Biden administration over its recent guidance reminding hospitals and physicians that federal law requires them to provide abortions if there is a medical emergency and the health or life of the patient is at risk.
According to the suit, filed in the Northern District of Texas, the Biden administration “seeks to transform every emergency room in the country into a walk-in abortion clinic,” and is “flouting the Supreme Court’s ruling before the ink is dry.”
Texas alleged the guidance goes much further than simply reminding hospitals of their obligations under current law, “it includes a number of new requirements related to the provision of abortions that do not exist under federal law.”
The state is asking the court to issue a permanent injunction prohibiting the administration from enforcing the guidance.
“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,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said in a statement.
The lawsuit was filed just days after the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued guidance reaffirming that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) protects providers when offering legally mandated, life- or health-saving abortion services in emergency situations.
Under the EMTALA law, if an emergency medical condition is found to exist, the hospital must provide available stabilizing treatment or an appropriate transfer to another hospital that has the capabilities to provide stabilizing treatment. HHS said abortion care qualifies as stabilizing care.
The law leaves it up to a physician to determine what qualifies as an emergency medical condition for a pregnant patient, but administration officials said examples such as ectopic pregnancy, complications of miscarriage or severe preeclampsia would apply.
But according to Texas, “EMTALA does not mandate, direct, approve, or even suggest the provision of any specific treatment. It says nothing about abortion.”
The HHS guidance followed President Biden’s executive order on reproductive health issued last week, and comes as the White House fends off criticism for its seemingly sluggish response to the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.