WASHINGTON — The Biden administration told hospitals Monday they “must” provide abortion services if the mother’s life is at risk, saying federal law on emergency treatment guidelines supersedes state laws in jurisdictions that now prohibit the procedure without exceptions after the decision of the Supreme. Court decision to end a constitutional right to abortion.
The Department of Health and Human Services cited the requirements about medical facilities in the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA. The law requires medical facilities to determine whether a person seeking treatment may be in labor or facing an emergency health situation, or one that could become an emergency, and provide treatment.
“If a physician believes that a pregnant patient presenting to an emergency department is experiencing an emergency medical condition as defined by EMTALA, and that abortion is the necessary stabilizing treatment to resolve that condition, the physician must provide that treatment” , establishes the guide of the agency. . “When a state law prohibits abortion and does not include an exception for the life of the pregnant person, or provides an exception narrower than EMTALA’s definition of an emergency medical condition, that state law takes precedence.”
The department said emergency conditions include “ectopic pregnancy, complications of pregnancy loss, or emerging hypertensive disorders, such as preeclampsia with severe features.”
Currently, even states with the strictest abortion bans allow exceptions when the mother’s health is at risk, though the threat of prosecution has created confusion for some doctors.
In a letter to health care providers, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra wrote: “It is critical that providers know that the professional and legal duty of a physician or other qualified medical personnel to provide stabilizing medical treatment to a patient who presents to the emergency department and is found to have an emergency medical condition overrides any directly conflicting state law or mandate that might otherwise prohibit such treatment.”
The department says its guidance does not reflect new policy, but merely reminds doctors and providers of their existing obligations under federal law.
“Under federal law, providers in emergency situations are required to provide stabilizing care to someone with an emergency medical condition, including abortion care if needed, regardless of what state they live in,” said Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, administrator from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. . “CMS will do everything in its power to ensure patients receive the care they need.”