This week, a Texas federal judge ruled against President Joe Biden’s executive order allowing emergency healthcare providers to violate state law and perform abortions.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade allowed states to abolish abortion, which drew intense backlash from Democrat voters and officials. In response, Biden signed an executive order protecting access to abortion—including chemical abortion drugs—and contraceptives.
Soon after, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), alleging the agency is misusing the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) to carry out Biden’s executive order. Under the Biden administration’s interpretation, EMTALA allows hospitals providing emergency services to perform abortions as a part of “emergency medical care” and “stabilizing” procedures.
Paxton’s lawsuit argued HHS’s interpretation goes beyond EMTALA’s intended purpose and that the federal government cannot mandate healthcare providers to perform abortions under the act. He also criticized the order for forcing “hospitals and doctors to commit crimes and risk their licensure under Texas law.”
Texas’ abortion trigger law, set to go into effect later this week, outlaws all abortions except when the mother’s life is in danger. The law also excludes ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages from its definition of abortion. Under the new restrictions, anyone caught performing abortions faces thousands in fines and up to a life sentence in prison.
After filing the lawsuit, Paxton condemned Biden’s executive order as federal overreach and promised to fight the initiative.
“This administration has a hard time following the law, and now they are trying to have their appointed bureaucrats mandate that hospitals and emergency medicine physicians perform abortions,” said Paxton. “I will ensure that President Biden will be forced to comply with the Supreme Court’s important decision concerning abortion and I will not allow him to undermine and distort existing laws to fit his administration’s unlawful agenda.”
This week, U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix sided with Paxton and ruled HHS’s interpretation exceeds EMTALA’s authority because the act “protects both mothers and unborn children, is silent as to abortion, and preempts state law only when the two directly conflict.” However, Hendrix only barred HHS from implementing this interpretation in Texas, which means the agency can still force the abortion mandate on other states.
On social media, Paxton celebrated Hendrix’s decision as a “WIN for mothers, babies, & the TX healthcare industry.”
With Texas’ 2023 legislative session less than six months away, State Rep. Brian Harrison (R–Waxahachie) also praised the ruling and said he would fight “federal overreach by unelected bureaucrats” while in the Texas House.
“Biden has instructed HHS, where I served as chief of staff under President Trump, to preempt Texas’s pro-life laws,” said Harrison. “This defeat is one of many more to come, and I am excited to defeat their unconstitutional efforts next session in the Texas Legislature—to defend both federalism and millions of unborn babies.”