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Texas Doctors Not Required to Perform Emergency Abortions, Federal Appeals Court Rules

In a significant setback to the Biden administration’s efforts to ensure access to abortion, a federal appeals court in Texas ruled on Tuesday that hospitals and doctors in the state are not obligated to perform emergency abortions. The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit questioned the administration’s interpretation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), stating that the law does not mandate specific medical treatments, including abortion.

The court also criticized the Biden administration for not following the proper rulemaking process when issuing emergency-care guidance, which asserted that health-care providers would be protected by EMTALA if they believed an abortion was medically necessary. The 5th Circuit panel argued that EMTALA did not directly conflict with Texas’ near-total abortion ban, which includes exceptions for medical emergencies.

The Biden administration has invoked EMTALA to ensure access to abortion following the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision overturning the constitutional right to abortion. The decision led to multiple state-level abortion bans. The administration is involved in several lawsuits, including the Texas case, to determine if the emergency-care law applies to abortion access.

Abortion rights advocates criticized the ruling, arguing that it disregards women in life-threatening pregnancy situations. They also expressed concerns about the conservative nature of the 5th Circuit, which has consistently sided with anti-abortion advocates.

Sen. Patty Murray, a key figure in the Women’s Health Protection Act, condemned the efforts to oppose abortion, stating that a pro-choice majority in Congress is needed to restore women’s right to abortion. On the other hand, anti-abortion advocates celebrated the ruling, viewing it as a legal check against what they perceive as Biden’s pro-abortion agenda.

Since the Supreme Court’s decision in 2022, women facing life-threatening pregnancy complications have encountered difficulties accessing abortion care, with doctors hesitant due to new abortion laws. The Biden administration has emphasized that EMTALA obliges physicians to provide abortions to stabilize patients, even if state laws suggest otherwise.

The state of Texas had sued over the Biden administration’s interpretation of EMTALA, resulting in a federal judge blocking the guidance in August 2022. Another related case in Idaho is awaiting review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

Hospital administrators and doctors in anti-abortion states find themselves caught between state abortion bans and EMTALA, fearing legal repercussions. The recent ruling adds to the complexities, leaving health-care providers uncertain about the choices they make in providing care.

RA Staff
RA Staff
Written by RA News staff.


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