Chicago – Attorney General Kwame Raoul, as part of a coalition of 22 attorneys general, today filed an amicus brief in support of the federal government’s appeal of a Texas decision threatening access to abortion care during life-threatening medical emergencies.
Raoul and the coalition’s brief supports the federal government’s defense of its Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) guidance, which restates hospitals’ obligations under EMTALA and requires doctors nationwide to perform abortions when necessary in emergency situations.
“Eliminating access to abortion care during a medical emergency only increases the risk that pregnant women will die needlessly from a preventable medical complication,” Raoul said. “I will continue to fight to protect access to reproductive health care and against attempts to limit access to abortion.”
Following the Dobbs decision, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued guidance interpreting EMTALA to require emergency abortion care in covered hospitals regardless of the terms of state law. In July 2022, Texas filed a lawsuit challenging that guidance, and in August 2022, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas barred the guidance from being applied in Texas. The federal government filed an appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit on March 10, 2023 asking it to reverse the Texas district court's ruling.
In their brief, Raoul and the coalition highlight that the district court ruling, if allowed to stand, would not only endanger patients in Texas but would also have serious repercussions on the health systems of other states.
Every hospital in the United States that operates an emergency department and participates in Medicare is subject to EMTALA. Under the law, emergency rooms are required to provide all patients who have an emergency medical condition with the treatment required to save their lives.
The district court’s ruling blocking the application of the EMTALA guidance in Texas has already put multiple patients’ lives at risk by plunging providers into a climate of uncertainty and fear about the legal and criminal repercussions they may face for performing abortions on patients in emergency situations. For example, a pregnant woman in Texas who experienced a miscarriage was forced to carry a dead fetus for two weeks because of her providers’ fears about violating Texas law. Another Texas woman who went into early labor at 18 weeks was forced to wait until she was too weak to walk, had a 103-degree fever and contracted sepsis – a life-threatening medical emergency – before her doctors agreed she was sick enough to legally end her pregnancy.
In their brief, Raoul and the coalition make the following points:
Joining Raoul in filing today’s brief are the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Washington.