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Biden Admin. Says Federal Law Preempts State Law for Emergency Abortions


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The Biden administration on Monday released new guidance stating that federal law preempts state law when a woman seeks an abortion for an emergency that threatens her life or health.

The guidance by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services involves the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), which requires that hospitals receiving Medicare provide patients a medical screening, examination and stabilizing treatment.

“Stabilizing treatment could include medical and/or surgical interventions, including abortion,” HHS said in a news release.

The news release added that the law protects hospitals that offer “legally-mandated, life- or health-saving abortion services in emergency situations.”

“Under the law, no matter where you live, women have the right to emergency care — including abortion care,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “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. Protecting both patients and providers is a top priority, particularly in this moment. Health care must be between a patient and their doctor, not a politician.

“We will continue to leverage all available resources at HHS to make sure women can access the life-saving care they need,” Becerra added.

In a letter sent to health care providers, HHS said an emergency abortion would include but not be limited to an ectopic pregnancy and preeclampsia.

Further, the letter said when a state prohibits abortion and “does not include an exception for the life and health of the pregnant person,” the state law “is preempted.”

“Everyone should have access to the health care they need – especially in an emergency,” said Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). “Under federal law, providers in emergency situations are required to provide stabilizing care to someone with an emergency medical condition, including abortion care if necessary, regardless of the state where they live. CMS will do everything within our authority to ensure that patients get the care they need.”


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Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/LightFieldStudios

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

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