Appeals Court Rejects Biden Administration’s Push for Mandatory ER Abortions in Texas

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Photo: Twitter Screenshot - Derek

In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has upheld a lower court’s ruling, rejecting the Biden administration’s attempt to enforce federal guidance compelling emergency room doctors in Texas to perform abortions. 

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The decision came on Tuesday, with Circuit Judge Kurt D. Englehardt, a Trump appointee, stated that the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) does not mandate hospitals to provide abortion services.

The panel opinion, authored by Judge Englehardt, emphasized that EMTALA does not govern the practice of medicine and that medical practices fall under the jurisdiction of individual states. The ruling clarified that EMTALA focuses on stabilizing patients in emergency conditions but does not require specific medical treatments, including abortion. The injunction prevents the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from enforcing the guidance within the State of Texas.

Chelsey Youman, the national legislative advisor at the pro-life group Human Coalition Action, applauded the decision, expressing gratitude for the court’s recognition of states’ authority to protect human life. Youman also praised Texas for its leadership in safeguarding innocent lives and commended Attorney General Paxton for upholding pro-life laws.

On the other side, Senior Staff Attorney Rabia Muqaddam from the pro-choice group Center for Reproductive Rights criticized the ruling, stating it “shows a complete disregard for the lives of pregnant people.”

The background of the case dates back to July 2022, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued guidance asserting that EMTALA required emergency room staff to provide abortions.

In response, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office, along with the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration. In August 2022, U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix in Lubbock granted a preliminary injunction, arguing that EMTALA protects both mothers and unborn children but remains silent on abortion, preempting state law only in direct conflicts.

Judge Hendrix expressed that Texas law already aligns with EMTALA to a significant extent, allowing abortions in life-threatening conditions and for the removal of an ectopic or miscarried pregnancy.

EMTALA, passed in 1986, focuses on public access to emergency services for everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. Participating hospitals are required to provide medical services to all individuals and to stabilize patients with emergency medical conditions.

The Appeals Court’s ruling emphasizes the limitations of federal authority in dictating medical practices, asserting that such matters are within the purview of individual states. 

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