Texas sues White House, says doctors don’t have to perform life-saving abortions

Boston: Texas has sued the Biden administration over new guidance directing hospitals to provide emergency abortions regardless of state bans that came into effect after the US Supreme Court’s reversal of its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

In the lawsuit, Republican Texas attorney-general Ken Paxton argued the US Department of Health and Human Services was trying to “use federal law to transform every emergency room in the country into a walk-in abortion clinic”.

Texas attorney-general Ken Paxton speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference.Credit:Bloomberg/Dylan Hollingsworth

The lawsuit filed on Friday (AEST) focused on guidance issued this week advising that a federal law protecting patients’ access to emergency treatment requires performing abortions when doctors believe a pregnant woman’s life or health is threatened.

The guidance came after President Joe Biden, a Democrat, signed an executive order seeking to ease access to services to terminate pregnancies after the Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade ruling recognising a nationwide right of women to obtain abortions last month.

Abortion services ceased in Texas after the state’s highest court, on July 2 at Paxton’s urging, cleared the way for a nearly century-old abortion ban to take effect.

The department said the guidance from its US Centres for Medicare & Medicaid Services agency did not constitute new policy but merely reminded doctors of their obligations under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act.

But in the lawsuit the state of Texas argued that federal law has never authorised the federal government to compel doctors and hospitals to perform abortions and that the guidance was unlawful.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said it was “unthinkable that this public official would sue to block women from receiving life-saving care in emergency rooms, a right protected under US law”.

About half the states are expected to move to restrict or ban abortions. Thirteen states, including Texas, had so-called “trigger laws” on the books designed to snap into effect if Roe v. Wade was overturned.


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