President Joe Biden issued an executive order last week aimed at protecting access to abortion in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, and on Thursday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton initiated the first legal challenge prompted by that move, as ABC News reports.
A specific issue in the legal filing is guidance issued by the Biden administration in the wake of the president’s executive action, which explains that doctors are permitted to perform abortions as part of emergency medical treatment – even in states where the procedure is prohibited – and declares that hospitals that do not actively facilitate the procedure under such circumstances risk the loss of federal funding.
According to the new rules promulgated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), doctors are required to perform abortions in emergency rooms if the procedure is deemed “the stabilizing treatment necessary” to address scenarios including ectopic pregnancy, hypertension, as well as preeclampsia.
In a letter to health care providers, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra stated, “When a state law prohibits abortion and does not include an exception for the life and health of the pregnant person – or draws the exception more narrowly than the [Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act’s] emergency medical condition definition – that state law is preempted.”
Filing a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Paxton declared, “This administration has a hard time following the law, and now they are trying to have their appointed bureaucrats mandate that hospitals and emergency medicine physicians perform abortions.”
“President Biden is flagrantly disregarding the legislative and democratic process – and flouting the Supreme Court’s ruling before the ink is dry,” Paxton also said, referencing the recent decision in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, according to Fox News.
The attorney general also contended that the Biden administration’s guidance makes use of an overly broad interpretation and, as such, mandates “abortions under a whole new range of circumstances” and that it “conflicts with the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal dollars from being used to fund abortions except when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest or the woman’s life is in danger,” according to the Texas Tribune.
Further, the AG’s suit argues that “hospitals are now threatened with having to choose between violating state law under the threat of criminal penalty or jeopardizing their ability to participate in Medicaid” and that the new guidance does not merely shed light on existing law, but rather “includes a number of new requirements related to the provision of abortions that do not exist under federal law.”
In response to Paxton’s action, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre predictably characterized the suit as “another example of an extreme and radical Republican elected official,” and an “unthinkable” attempt to prevent women from receiving the care she says is “protected under U.S. law,” but whether the courts will agree, only time will tell.