Federal judge blocks HHS guidance that emergency medical care must include abortion services

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On Tuesday, U.S. District Court James Wesley Hendrix ruled that the guidelines citing the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) were “unauthorized.”

“That guidance goes well beyond EMTALA’s text, which protects both mothers and unborn children, is silent on abortion and only takes precedence over state law when the two are directly in conflict. Since the statute is silent on the question, the directive cannot answer how doctors weigh the risks to both a mother and her unborn child. Nor can it create a conflict with state law where it does not exist,” Hendrix wrote in his opinion, issuing a preliminary injunction against HHS enforcing the guidelines in Texas or against members of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists or Christian Medical & Dental Associations.

“According to the HHS reading, if the physician initially determines that the unborn child does not have a medical emergency, then the physician should close his or her eyes to the health of the unborn child for the remainder of the treatment. This is directly contrary to with the ongoing treatment of the physician duty to care for both the mother and the unborn child in stabilizing a pregnant woman,” the judge said. Because the physician has a duty to both, EMTALA does not require the physician to introduce a medical emergency to one to stabilize the other. Again, EMTALA does not say how to balance both interests. It leaves that determination to the physician, who is bound by state law.”

The Texas lawsuit against the Biden administration challenging the guidelines was a preemptive strike on one of the few tools the Biden administration sought in its response to Dobbs. Texas already has extreme restrictions on abortion access, and Hendrix’s ruling was issued just before the so-called “trigger ban,” a criminal law that prohibits abortion in most contexts, goes into effect Thursday.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to remove the federal right to abortion, HHS, through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, issued guidelines on EMTALA on July 11, reminding health care providers of their duty to provide emergency care. , including abortions and reaffirming that the law protects providers that provide legally mandated abortion services in emergency situations.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, filed a lawsuit against HHS on July 14, alleging that the guidelines force hospitals and physicians to commit crimes and risk their license under Texas law and that EMTALA is the federal government’s does not authorize to force health care providers to perform abortions.

CNN has reached out to the offices of HHS and Paxton for comment.

In a statement, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre labeled the decision a “blow to Texans” that “will block medical providers from providing life-saving and health-preserving care.”

Separately, Biden’s Justice Department cited EMTALA to challenge parts of an Idaho trigger ban that also goes into effect Thursday. In that case, the Justice Department asks a federal judge to block portions of the Idaho law that violates EMTALA by threatening to prosecute doctors who perform abortions in medical emergencies to pregnant women who face serious health risks. .

Idaho only exempts abortions that are “necessary” to prevent death, while the Justice Department argues that EMTALA requires emergency abortion assistance to be provided in scenarios where patients face other serious health risks, if not necessarily the threat of death.

In that case, the judge said he would issue his warrant on Wednesday. In pleadings this week, the judge seemed inclined to grant the Justice Department’s request and is not bound by the Texas court’s ruling. Regardless of how he rules, one or both cases are likely to be appealed — raising the possibility that in the coming weeks the Supreme Court will again be asked to rule on abortion and discuss how federal emergency care standards deal with state abortion ban.

This story has been updated with additional comments.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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