Court Sides With Texas in Abortion Lawsuit

On Tuesday, a U.S. District Court judge blocked guidance that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released in response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.  This guidance would have required all hospitals to perform abortions in circumstances that violate state laws. Fox News explained:

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Wednesday hailed a federal judge’s decision to temporarily block the Biden administration from forcing hospitals to provide abortions services if the mother’s health or life was at risk. 

Paxton filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in July and moved for an injunction earlier this month. Paxton’s lawsuit argued that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, a federal law commonly referred to as EMTALA, doesn't require doctors to provide abortions if doing so would violate a state law.

Ed Whelan further explained the ruling:

The gist of his rulings is that Becerra’s advice “goes well beyond EMTALA’s text, which protects both mothers and unborn children, is silent as to abortion, and preempts state law only when the two directly conflict.” Hendrix highlights that “Texas law already overlaps with EMTALA to a significant degree, allowing abortions in life-threatening conditions.” As Hendrix explains more fully:

Specifically, the question at issue here is whether Congress has directly addressed whether physicians must perform abortions when they believe that it would resolve a pregnant woman’s emergency medical condition, irrespective of the unborn child’s health and state law. Congress has not. EMTALA, by its terms, does not require any particular stabilization procedure except one: delivery of the unborn child and the placenta. Outside of requiring delivery of the child when a mother experiences contractions, EMTALA provides no roadmap for doctors when their duty to a pregnant woman and her unborn child may conflict.

Because EMTALA “provides no instructions on what a physician is to do when there is a conflict between the health of the mother and the unborn child,” Texas law “fills this void.” And because “nothing about the way Texas has filled that void—permitting abortions to protect the mother’s life or to avoid a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function—makes the provision of stabilizing care impossible,” EMTALA does not preempt Texas law. A contrary reading would also contravene the Medicare Act’s prohibition of federal interference with state regulation of the practice of medicine.

Judge Hendrix also rules that because Becerra’s letter was procedurally defective. Because it establishes or changes a substantive legal standard, it was subject to notice-and-comment rulemaking requirements.

A ruling on the interplay between the EMTALA and state abortion laws is also expected from the U.S. District Court of Idaho on Wednesday:

The Idaho abortion law would make it a felony to perform an abortion in all but extremely narrow circumstances. There are exceptions for cases of rape or incest that have been reported. To avoid criminal liability, a doctor must prove that the abortion was necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman, though there is no defense for an abortion to protect the woman's health, according to the DOJ.

These cases are important because they illustrate just how far the Biden Administration is willing to go in attempts to circumvent the Supreme Court's holding in Dobbs and achieve their radical pro-choice agenda.