Hospitals must provide abortion services if mother’s life is at risk: Biden admin

Hospitals must provide abortion services if mother’s life is at risk: Biden admin

The Biden administration on Monday said federal law overrides states’ abortion bans when it comes to lifesaving care for women — and that hospitals must provide abortion services in emergency situations.

Those who deny care under those circumstances risk fines or the loss of their Medicare status, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said.

The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade on June 24 left the abortion question up to individual states, but by doing so, undermined the guarantee of access to the procedure in medical emergencies — and left providers without clear guidelines on when an abortion would be considered medically necessary. Several states are attempting to ban any such care whatsoever.

“Under the law, no matter where you live, women have the right to emergency care — including abortion care,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “Today, in no uncertain terms, we are reinforcing that we expect providers to continue offering these services, and that federal law preempts state abortion bans when needed for emergency care.”

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The aim is to protect health care providers “when offering legally-mandated, life- or health-saving abortion services in emergency situations,” HHS said. Those include things like ectopic pregnancy, hypertension and preeclampsia, which some states are restricting or banning in the wake of the high court decision. While even the most stringent state bans allow exceptions when a mother’s health is at risk, some providers have found the threat of prosecution confusing.

“Providers are mystified right now about what they can and can’t do,” Mini Timmaraju, president of the National Abortion Rights Action League, told Politico.

HHS based its guidance on what medical facilities must comply with under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act that requires medical facilities to determine whether someone needing medical treatment is in labor, or is facing an emergency health situation, and to provide treatment accordingly.

“If a physician believes that a pregnant patient presenting at an emergency department is experiencing an emergency medical condition as defined by EMTALA, and that abortion is the stabilizing treatment necessary to resolve that condition, the physician must provide that treatment,” HHS said in its guidance. “When a state law prohibits abortion and does not include an exception for the life of the pregnant person — or draws the exception more narrowly than EMTALA’s emergency medical condition definition — that state law is preempted.”

HHS noted it’s not a new policy, but rather a reminder spelling out doctors’ and providers’ existing obligations under federal law.

“It is critical that providers know 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,” Becerra wrote in a letter to health care providers.

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With News Wire Services

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