“”Federal law is clear: patients have the right to stabilizing hospital emergency room care no matter where they live,” said Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Women should not have to be near death to get care.”
In July, HHS issued new guidance stating that EMTALA’s provision for stabilizing treatment includes a right to an abortion in some circumstances. “If a state law prohibits abortion and does not include an exception for the health or life of the pregnant person—or draws the exception more narrowly than EMTALA’s emergency medical condition definition—that state law is preempted,” the agency said.
No existing abortion ban lacks an exception for a mother’s life, but some do omit exceptions for women’s health. And determining whether something counts as a life-threatening emergency—as opposed to a mere health-threatening emergency—isn’t so clear-cut. Many pregnancy complications could become life-threatening while not being necessarily or immediately so. The HHS guidance attempts to provide clarity, stating that regardless of what a state law says, physicians must provide an abortion if one is necessary to address an emergency medical condition (including, but not limited to, ectopic pregnancy or severely high blood pressure).
Texas sued over the HHS directive. Joined by the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) and the Christian Medical and Dental Association (CMDA), the state sought to have the HHS “abortion mandate” declared “unlawful, unconstitutional and unenforceable” and for the court to issue a preliminary injunction on its enforcement.”