No State Can Deny Abortion to Those Needing Emergency Care, Biden Admin Says

Monday’s U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), released new guidance that clarifies that emergency medical care, including abortion, has priority over state laws banning abortions.

HHS announces new information, citing the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), This is part a recent executive order by President Joe BidenDirecting the department to review its guidance regarding abortion services in emergency situations.

“Protecting both patients and providers is a top priority, particularly in this moment,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “Health care must be between a patient and their doctor, not a politician.”

Under the new guidance, “a physician’s professional and legal duty to provide stabilizing medical treatment to a patient who… is found to have an emergency medical condition preempts any directly conflicting state law or mandate that might otherwise prohibit or prevent such treatment,” including if “abortion is the stabilizing treatment necessary to resolve that condition.” The new guidance also commands physicians across the U.S. to provide abortion services in emergency situations even if a state law says such an action is illegal.

“That state law is preempted,” the guidance says, by the federal EMTALA statute.

“Under the law, no matter where you live, women have the right to emergency care — including abortion care,” Becerra added in his statement.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure also spoke out about the new guidance, saying in a statement that medical facilities are “required to provide stabilizing care to someone with an emergency medical condition, including abortion care,” if an emergency situation warrants it, “regardless of the state where they live.”

Hospitals and other medical facilities refusing to adhere to the new guidelines could lose their Medicare and Medicaid provider agreements. They could also face stiff civil sanctions, and individual providers or physicians could also be fined if the rules are broken.

The fines are steep, meant to deter negligence of care — a physician, for example, who refuses to provide an emergency abortion where it’s warranted could be fined close to $120,000 per violation.

Beyond guaranteeing patients’ rights to receive an abortion in emergency situations, Biden’s executive order, which he signed last fridayThe Food and Drug Administration is also directed to increase access for abortion medication. The order also aims to protect patients’ confidentiality and privacy rights, limiting who can access information on someone who received an abortion to prevent them from being punished in states with laws that prohibit abortions.

However, some have argued that the order should be reversed. doesn’t go far enoughto oppose any encroachments upon abortion rights. The order has some positive elements, but these critics point out that the Biden administration is not perfect. should have been better preparedto have dealt the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn abortion rights protections.