On Monday, Pres. Joe Biden’s administration said that hospitals “must” provide abortion if the mother’s life is at risk. According to the current administration, federal law tackling emergency treatment guidelines preempts law in states when it comes to jurisdictions related to the banning of the procedure with no exceptions after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
The Health and Human Services department cited what is required of medical facilities as stipulated in the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA). This law requires such facilities to determine if a person seeking treatment may be in labor or if they are facing an emergency health situation and to impart treatment.
“If a physician believes that a pregnant patient presenting at an emergency department is experiencing an emergency medical condition as defined by EMTALA, and that abortion is the stabilizing treatment necessary to resolve that condition, the physician must provide that treatment,” the HHS guidelines state. “When a state law prohibits abortion and does not include an exception for the life of the pregnant person — or draws the exception more narrowly than EMTALA’s emergency medical condition definition — that state law is preempted.”
The agency also mentioned that such emergency conditions include “ectopic pregnancy, complications of pregnancy loss, or emergent hypertensive disorders, such as preeclampsia with severe features.”
States With the Strictest Abortion Laws Still Have Exceptions
At the moment, even states known to have the strictest bans on abortions still allow exceptions given that the mother’s health is at risk. However, the likelihood and threat of prosecution have made some doctors confused.
HHS Sec. Xavier Becerra sent a letter to health care providers, which reads, “It is critical that providers know that a physician or other qualified medical personnel’s professional and legal duty to provide stabilizing medical treatment to a patient who presents to the emergency department and is found to have an emergency medical condition preempts any directly conflicting state law or mandate that might otherwise prohibit such treatment.”
The HHS also mentioned that new policy isn’t reflected in their guidance. Instead, it only reminds practitioners of their already-existing obligations as stipulated in federal law.
“Under federal law, providers in emergency situations are required to provide stabilizing care to someone with an emergency medical condition, including abortion care if necessary, regardless of the state where they live,” as per the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “CMS will do everything within our authority to ensure that patients get the care they need.”