It was only last week that President Joe Biden issued an executive order aimed at protecting access to abortion in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, and his administration has already been hauled into court by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton as a result of the move, as ABC News reports.
The controversy relates to guidance issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in which it is stated that doctors are required to perform abortions in emergency rooms if the procedure is deemed “the stabilizing treatment necessary” in cases of ectopic pregnancy, hypertension, as well as preeclampsia and further notes that hospitals that do not facilitate such conduct will risk the loss of federal funding.
In a letter sent to health care providers, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra stated, “When a state law prohibits abortion and does not include an exception for the life and health of the pregnant person – or draws the exception more narrowly than the [Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act’s (EMTALA)] emergency medical condition definition – that state law is preempted.”
Given that Texas is a jurisdiction in which a soon-to-be-effective state abortion statute would be preempted if the guidance is permitted to stand, Paxton filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, declaring, “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.”
“President Biden is flagrantly disregarding the legislative and democratic process – and flouting the Supreme Court’s ruling before the ink is dry,” Paxton also said, referring to the recent outcome in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, as Fox News noted.
The attorney general’s objections also included arguments that the HHS guidance makes use of an overly broad interpretation of emergency medical care and conditions, and therefore mandates “abortions under a whole new range of circumstances” and that it “conflicts with the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal dollars from being used to fund abortions except when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest or the woman’s life is in danger, according to the Texas Tribune.
Paxton’s suit further lamented that “hospitals are now threatened with having to choose between violating state law under the threat of criminal penalty or jeopardizing their ability to participate in Medicaid,” and alleged that the HHS guidance does not simply shed light on existing law, but in fact “includes a number of new requirements related to the provision of abortions that do not exist under federal law.”
Predictably, when asked to comment on the lawsuit, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre characterized the action as “another example of an extreme and radical Republican elected official” and called it an “unthinkable” attempt to prevent women from receiving care she contends is “protected under U.S. law.”
Advocacy group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America begged to differ, however, opining that “[t]he new [HHS] guidance is a complete distortion of EMTALA and we firmly stand with AG Paxton in Texas,” according to ABC News. Whether the courts will do the same, however, only time will tell.