. (Bloomberg) The federal mandate that emergency abortions in hospitals take precedence over state bans on such procedures has been challenged in Texas. The Biden administration has asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit, calling the rule “reasonable and reasonably explained.”
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Late on Monday, the Justice Department filed a motion to dismiss the suit in federal court in Lubbock, Texas, arguing that the guidance is necessary to protect the lives of pregnant patients facing medical emergencies following the Supreme Court’s overturn of the constitutional right to abortion.
The rule was issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (Emtala), which states that doctors’ discretion must be given the highest weight in protecting the health of women who are either in labor or who have a potentially life-threatening condition such as an ectopic pregnancy or high blood pressure. It was deemed a “abortion mandate” by the state of Texas.
When defending the rule, the Biden administration wrote that it “is fully consistent with the Constitution” and that “far from being a ‘abortion mandate,’ the guidance is entirely consistent with — and, in fact, flows directly from — Emtala’s text, and does not conflict with other law.”
Keep Reading: The Department of Justice has filed its first lawsuit challenging an abortion ban, targeting Idaho.
To prevent “imminent and irreparable injury,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed for a temporary restraining order. The United States says the lawsuit is missing evidence that the Christian Medical and Dental Associations and other plaintiffs were forced to “choose between their religious convictions and potential enforcement action.”
Following President Joe Biden’s order, HHS issued the rule to allay fears that access to emergency care would be restricted in the wake of the Roe v. Wade decision’s overturn. All 50 states have laws that protect a woman’s right to an abortion if she or her unborn child’s life is in danger, but there is still debate over what exactly constitutes an emergency situation.
Letitia James of New York and Xavier Becerra of California led nearly two dozen Democratic-led states in filing an amicus brief in the Texas suit and in a related case in which the DOJ sued Idaho over a six-week abortion ban that allegedly violates Emtala.
James said in a statement on Tuesday that other states and “anti-choice forces” in New York were keeping an eye on what was happening in Idaho and Texas. There is a public health emergency caused by states that make it difficult to obtain an abortion.
US District Court, Northern District of Texas; case number 22-cv-00185, Texas v. Becerra (Lubbock).
(Revised to reflect briefs submitted by Democratic attorneys general.)
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