A federal appeals court ruled in favor of Texas on Tuesday, saying that the White House isn’t able to use an emergency care law from 1986 to force Texas hospitals to give abortions to women who are considered to be at risk due to their pregnancy.
When the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade case in 2022 — thereby placing the decision on how to handle abortion in the hands of individual states — the Biden administration issued guidance that said hospitals “must” give abortion care if the mother’s life is at risk.
In doing so, the White House was citing the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act of 1986. That law required all emergency rooms at hospitals to provide treatment that would stabilize a person’s life if they arrive for care.
Following the high court ruling, Texas outlawed abortion in almost all cases. That law has been challenged in the state court system multiple times, but has upheld the state’s position.
In December, the state Supreme Court said that a woman who had requested an abortion because her fetus had a fatal diagnosis could not get one.
There is another abortion case pending in front of the state Supreme Court brought by women who weren’t able to get an abortion even though continuing on with the pregnancy posed serious risks to their life.
Oral arguments in that case were given in November, but the justices haven’t ruled yet.
Texas joined with other opponents of abortion to challenge the Biden administration’s guidance about the emergency care act from going into effect. They initially won their case in district court.
The White House appealed that to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — which has jurisdiction over Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana — but that appeal was rejected unanimously by a three-judge panel.
In its ruling, the panel said the Biden administration can’t use the guidance to require emergency care for abortions.
A similar case went through the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in California. That court allowed the Biden administration guidance to stand in a case coming out of Ohio. That case is now pending in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Those fighting against the guidance include not just Texas but two other groups who joined in on the lawsuit — the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, and the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists.
They argue that state law allows abortions already if they’re needed to save the mother’s life. They also argue that the guidance issued by the Biden administration goes way too far, saying that abortions should be done even when it’s not an emergency situation.
The panel of judges at the 5th Circuit sided with the case brought by Texas. In the opinion, Judge Kurt Engelhardt wrote:
“We agree with the district court that EMTALA does not provide an unqualified right for the pregnant mother to abort her child especially when EMTALA imposes equal stabilization obligations.”