Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the Biden administration on Thursday, claiming that a recent directive to doctors to offer abortion in emergencies was illegal.
The federal lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for Northern Texas, claims that the directive from the Department of Health and Human Services is an “attempt to use federal law to turn all emergency rooms in the country into an abortion clinic” and should be blocked.
“This administration is having a hard time following the law, and now they are trying to get their designated bureaucrats to mandate that hospitals and emergency physicians perform abortions,” Paxton said in a statement. “I will not allow him to undermine and distort existing laws to fit his administration’s illegal agenda.”
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra issued a guide this week saying a 1985 law known as the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, or EMTALA, protects providers offering emergency abortion services even though a state law prohibits it.
“Emergency medical conditions involving pregnant patients may include, but are not limited to, ectopic pregnancy, complications of pregnancy loss, or new hypertensive disorders, such as preeclampsia with severe features,” the agency document said.
Becerra said in a statement Monday: “By law, no matter where you live, women have the right to emergency treatment – including abortion.” He said his agency “reinforces that we expect providers to continue to offer these services and that federal law anticipates state abortion bans when necessary for emergency treatment.”
President Joe Biden’s issued an executive order on July 8 to strengthen access to abortion in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade. The Biden administration has been looking for ways to use administrative action to protect the remaining abortion rights, especially since Democrats do not have the votes to pass broader legislation in Congress.
However, the Texas lawsuit claims that the 1985 law, quoted by Becerra, “does not mandate, instruct, approve or even propose the delivery of any specific treatment. It says nothing about abortion.” Paxton further argued in the case that Becerra’s guidance “merely pretends to remind hospitals of their existing obligations under federal law.”
“But it does not: it includes a number of new requirements related to the delivery of abortions that do not exist under federal law,” he said.
“No federal law, including EMTALA, replaces or prejudices the power of states to regulate or prohibit abortion,” the case states.
A HHS representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A Justice Department spokesman said, “We are reviewing the complaint,” and declined further comments.
Chloe Atkins the contribution.