On Thursday, Texas state officials filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration challenging its recent guidance that health providers can carry out abortions in emergency cases regardless of their state’s laws.
Under the guidance released earlier last week by the Department of Health and Human Services, health providers who carry out emergency abortions are protected under federal law. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton responded to this by suing HHS to “ensure that the Left’s abortion agenda can’t reach Texas babies.”
In 2021, Texas passed SB 8, which prohibited abortions at six weeks of pregnancy unless the mother’s life is in danger. Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, also signed HB 1280 into law, penalizing doctors who carry out abortions with time in prison or fines of up to $100,000. This trigger law came into effect with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“Biden is attempting to twist federal law to force abortions in Texas … not on my watch,” Paxton tweeted when announcing the lawsuit against HHS.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reacted to the lawsuit by calling it “yet another example of an extreme radical Republican elected official.”
“It is unthinkable that this public official would sue to block women from receiving lifesaving care in emergency rooms, a right protected under U.S. law,” she added.
The law she is referring to is the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act.
Earlier this week, in the guidance, HHS officials announced that the act “protects providers when offering legally-mandated, life- or health-saving abortion services in emergency situations.” This was done in line with President Joe Biden’s executive order protecting access to abortions.
“The Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act, in its very essence, is a pro-life law,” said Connor Semelsberger, director of federal affairs at Family Research Council.
Semelsberger explained that the federal law enacted in 1986 requires anyone who comes into an emergency health care department to be stabilized and treated regardless of their insurance status or the ability to pay.
The lawsuit emphasizes that the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act “does not authorize—and has never authorized—the federal government to compel health care providers to perform abortions.”
“What is concerning is that rather than being a law in a provision for emergency rooms to care for unborn children and pregnant women, this new guidance from the Biden administration is forcing health care providers to end an unborn child’s life rather than seek to save it,” Semelsberger said.
Instead of destroying unborn babies, he shared that the goal should be to save the mother’s life while also trying to save the unborn child’s life. This could be achieved through surgery for an ectopic pregnancy, induced preterm deliveries, and emergency C-sections. These procedures do not fall under the legal term of abortion, which is to “terminate a pregnancy.”
It is now up to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas to decide whether the administration’s HHS guidance is “unlawful” and block the federal government from enforcing it.
This legal battle is a new test case of federal law versus state law since the overturning of Roe.
Semelsberger explained, “The original language to say everyone is guaranteed the right to an emergency screening and test for both the pregnant woman and her unborn child has been sound law for a long time. And so this overreach, in the guidance, is how states should interpret it. I believe there’s a strong case that Texas has made, and it would seem a likely victory. But again, it’s so hard to know where these court battles will play out.”
Semelsberger anticipates that other pro-life states will follow Texas’ example and file similar legal suits against the Biden administration.
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