Judge blocks federal rule that says Texas hospitals must perform emergency abortions

"It's wrong, it's backwards and women may die as a result," the White House responded.

Women attend a candlelight vigil in Washington on June 26, two days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, ending federal abortion protections. Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 24 (UPI) -- A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked a legal effort by President Joe Biden's administration that says hospitals in Texas must perform abortion services if the mother's life is in danger.

The Health and Human Services Department issued guidance in July that said hospitals in Texas -- which has banned most abortions -- are bound by the mandate.


The department's order came after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down legalized abortion nationwide and said dangerous abortions are protected by the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act.

The state sued the department, arguing that the federal law states that those abortions must be performed only if they don't violate Texas law.

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On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix said the department acted outside of its reach and blocked enforcement of the federal guidance.

"That guidance goes well beyond [the federal law's] text, which protects both mothers and unborn children, is silent as to abortion, and preempts state law only when the two directly conflict," Hendrix said according to The Guardian.

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act was enacted in 1986 and also requires hospitals to give emergency medical care to patients in need without regard to their ability to pay.


The department argues that the federal law states that a doctor must ignore the well-being of the fetus if they initially determine that it does not have an emergency medical condition.

Hendrix reasoned, however, that doctors have a responsibility to both the woman and her fetus during an emergency.

"Because the doctor has a duty to both, [the federal law] does not require the doctor to introduce an emergency medical condition to one in order to stabilize the other," Hendrix added, according to CNN.

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"[It] does not say how to balance both interests. It leaves that determination to the doctor, who is bound by state law."

Biden's administration has made a number of moves to protect abortion at the federal level since the Supreme Court ruling, and the issue is expected to weigh heavily on the midterm elections in November.

"Today's decision is a blow to Texans," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement Wednesday. "Women in Texas may now be denied this vital care -- even for conditions like severe hemorrhaging or life-threatening hypertension.

"It's wrong, it's backwards and women may die as a result. The fight is not over. The president will continue to push to require hospitals to provide life-saving and health-preserving reproductive care."


Jean-Pierre also called for voters to elect more Democrats in November so that they have sufficient majorities in both houses of Congress to codify legalized abortion into federal law.

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