Biden administration told hospitals must offer abortion if the mother's life is at risk

Biden administration told hospitals must offer abortion if the mother’s life is at risk

The Biden administration instructed hospitals on Monday that they “must” offer abortion services if the mother’s life is in danger. 

They claimed that state laws that outright prohibit the procedure in areas where it is now illegal due to the Supreme Court’s decision to end a constitutional right to abortion are superseded by federal emergency treatment guidelines.

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act’s standards for medical facilities were highlighted by the Department of Health and Human Services. 

A medical facility must evaluate a person seeking medical attention to ascertain whether they are pregnant, in labor, or experiencing a medical emergency (or one that might become an emergency) before receiving care.

The agency’s guidelines read, “If a physician feels that an abortion is the stabilization therapy required to address an emergency medical condition as defined by EMTALA in a pregnant woman presenting to an emergency room, the physician should offer such treatment.” 

“A state law is preempted when it forbids abortion and does not include an exemption for the life of the pregnant person—or defines the exception more narrowly than EMTALA’s definition of an emergency medical condition.”

According to the department, emergent hypertensive illnesses such as severe preeclampsia and ectopic pregnancy are examples of emergency circumstances.

In a letter to healthcare professionals, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra stated: “It is critical that providers understand 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.”

According to the agency, the recommendations solely serve to remind medical professionals of their ongoing legal responsibilities. They do not represent new policies.

The administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, stated, “Under federal law, clinicians in emergency circumstances are obligated to offer stabilization treatment to someone with an emergency medical condition, including abortion care if appropriate. “CMS will take all appropriate measures to ensure that patients get the treatment they need.”

In a statement after the action, Laura Wooster, senior vice president of advocacy and practice affairs for the American College of Emergency Physicians, commended the advice as a “positive step.”

Wooster said that there is still “a fair degree of doubt” about how much protection the legislation affords emergency department physicians who run the danger of being punished by their states for performing abortions.

Only that the federal legislation might “possibly” be used “by individual doctors” to establish a defense against state sanctions is stated in Becerra’s letter.