Judge blocks HHS from requiring health-care providers to perform abortions in Texas

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Published Saturday, August 27, 2022
by Bethany Blankley

(The Center Square) - A federal judge has ruled that federal guidance ordering health-care providers in Texas to perform abortions "was unauthorized." The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued it anyway, the judge notes, "without the required opportunity for public comments. As a result, the Court will preliminarily enjoin the Guidance's enforcement against the plaintiffs."

The ruling was a win for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who sued HHS in July.

In response to the August 23 ruling, Paxton said, "The court's decision to side with Texas is a crucial step in preventing Joe Biden and his radical pro-abortion Administration from breaking the law and threatening our entire healthcare industry by withholding federal funds. We're not going to allow left-wing bureaucrats in Washington to transform our hospitals and emergency rooms into walk-in abortion clinics, and the decision last night proves what we knew all along: the law is on our side. No matter how many backdoors Joe Biden attempts to go through to illegally force abortions in Texas, I will fight back to defend our pro-life laws and Texas mothers and children."

The lawsuit was brought by Paxton after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, paving the way for Texas' abortion ban to go into effect, which led to the Biden administration issuing an order attempting to use the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) to require hospitals to perform abortions in an attempt to override Texas' abortion ban.

After the Supreme Court ruling, Biden issued an executive order directing HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra to submit a report "identifying steps to ensure that all patients ... receive the full protections for emergency medical care afforded under the law, including by considering updates to current guidance on obligations specific to emergency conditions and stabilizing care under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act."

Becerra also told NBC News that Americans "can no longer trust" the Supreme Court and the administration's response would be "aggressive and go all the way."

On July 11, CMS issued guidance to state agency directors and Becerra sent a letter to providers describing the guidance, which includes "new requirements related to the provision of abortions that do not exist under federal law," Paxton's lawsuit alleges.

The requirements stipulate that providers can perform abortions if "abortion is the stabilizing treatment necessary to resolve [an emergency medical condition]," although "this condition has never been a part of EMTALA," Paxton notes.

Earlier this month, Paxton asked the court to issue an injunction and block HHS' directive.

U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix for the U.S. District Court Northern District of Texas Lubbock Division granted his request.

In his 67-page ruling, Hendrix said, "The Court concludes that the Guidance extends beyond EMTALA's authorizing text in three ways: it discards the requirement to consider the welfare of unborn children when determining how to stabilize a pregnant woman; it claims to preempt state laws notwithstanding explicit provisions to the contrary; and it impermissibly interferes with the practice of medicine in violation of the Medicare Act."

The Biden administration is expected to appeal the ruling.

Texas has largely outlawed abortion. Those fighting state and federal court battles over Texas' abortion ban have lost, and abortion providers have moved their abortion business to New Mexico and other states. Those performing abortions, or aiding in obtaining one in Texas after a pre-born baby's heartbeat is detected, can be sued civilly by anyone under state law.

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