Texas sued the federal government on Thursday over new guidance from the Biden administration directing hospitals to provide emergency abortions regardless of state bans on the procedure that came into effect in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in the lawsuit argued the U.S. 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.”
The lawsuit focused on guidance issued Monday 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 on Friday seeking to ease access to services to terminate pregnancies after the June 24 overturning of Roe v. Wade, which recognized a nationwide right of women to obtain abortions.
Abortion services ceased July 2 in Texas after the state’s highest court, at Paxton’s urging, cleared the way for a nearly century-old abortion ban to take effect.
HHS said the guidance from its U.S. Centers 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 filed in Lubbock, the Republican-led state of Texas argued that federal law has never authorized the federal government to compel doctors and hospitals to perform abortions and that the guidance was unlawful.
In a statement, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called it “unthinkable that this public official would sue to block women from receiving lifesaving care in emergency rooms, a right protected under U.S. law.”
About half the states are expected to move to restrict or ban abortions. Thirteen states, including Texas, had “trigger” laws on the books designed to snap into effect if Roe v. Wade was overturned.