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Biden admin reminding doctors about emergency abortions

by John Jefferson
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The Biden administration is telling doctors that pregnant women should have access to an emergency abortion when it is necessary to save her health, according to a letter being sent from the White House to medical professionals in the wake of last week’s Supreme Court ruling.

In a letter from Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Director Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to doctors and hospital groups, the pair said hospitals have a legal duty to provide stabilizing treatment, which includes abortions, The Associated Press reported. 

“No pregnant woman or her family should have to even begin to worry that she could be denied the treatment she needs to stabilize her emergency medical condition in the emergency room,” the letter said.

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“And yet, we have heard story after story describing the experiences of pregnant women presenting to hospital emergency departments with emergency medical conditions and being turned away because medical providers were uncertain about what treatment they were permitted to provide,” it continued. 

The high court ruled last week that doctors in Idaho must be allowed to provide emergency abortions despite the state’s near-total ban, in order to comply with a federal law that requires emergency rooms to give “stabilizing treatments” to patients in critical condition. 

The consolidated cases, Moyle v. U.S. and Idaho v. U.S., received national attention following the high court’s 2022 ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade. 

The ruling failed to settle a legal dispute over whether state abortion bans override a federal law requiring hospitals to provide stabilizing treatment.

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Pro-abortion activists outside SCOTUS

The law cited by the Biden administration requires nearly all emergency rooms that receive Medicare funding to provide stabilizing treatment for patients in a medical emergency. If a hospital turns away patients, they could face federal investigations, large fines and the loss of Medicare dollars. 

In Idaho, enforcement of the federal law in emergency abortion cases had been on hold since January, when the state’s strict abortion ban took effect. The newly enacted Defense of Life Act makes it a crime for any medical provider to perform an abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.  

Doctors who perform an abortion can face prison sentences. The lone exception was only if a pregnant woman’s life, not her health, is at risk.

The Biden administration argued the state law conflicted with the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, or EMTALA, a federal law that requires health care providers to give “stabilizing treatment” — including abortions — for patients when needed to treat an emergency medical condition, even if doing so might conflict with a state’s abortion restrictions.

Supreme Court Justices sitting for a portrait.

The state had argued that “construing EMTALA as a federal abortion mandate raises grave questions under the major questions doctrine that affect both Congress and this Court.” Proponents of the state’s abortion restriction accused the Biden administration of “subverting states’ rights,” citing the Dobbs decision, which allowed states to regulate abortion access.

Fox News Digital’s Brianna Herlihy as well as The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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