Biden administration can’t force Texas hospitals to provide emergency abortions, judge rules

Demonstrators march in Dallas on June 24 against the overturning of Roe v. Wade. On Tuesday, a federal judge in Texas said the Biden administration can't force hospitals here to perform emergency abortions. (Shelby Tauber For The Texas Tribune, Shelby Tauber For The Texas Tribune)

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Texas hospitals will not be required to provide emergency abortions after a federal judge ruled the Biden administration was unauthorized to enforce such a rule.

U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix in Lubbock ruled that the guidance by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services went beyond the text of a related federal law, Reuters reported. The judge’s ruling agreed with Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Hendrix, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, barred federal regulators only from enforcing the guidance and its interpretation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act in Texas, and against two anti-abortion groups of doctors. The judge declined to enjoin the guidance nationwide.

Paxton filed the lawsuit in July, after the department released the guidance and asserted federal law required emergency medical treatment irrespective of any state laws or mandates. In a statement Tuesday, Paxton claimed victory.

"We're not going to allow left-wing bureaucrats in Washington to transform our hospitals and emergency rooms into walk-in abortion clinics, and the decision last night proves what we knew all along: the law is on our side," Paxton said.

[A West Texas coffee shop owner is giving away Plan B for free as fight over contraception access takes hold]

Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa released a statement on the ruling, saying the party was angry and heartbroken for Texas women.

“Let me be clear: we strongly disagree with this ruling — and we stand with the millions of Texans who have been dealt yet another blow to their fundamental freedoms and bodily autonomy,” he said.

The ruling is the latest in an ongoing battle for abortion rights in Texas and other conservative-led states. When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned abortion rights in the country, Texas had a clear path for its “trigger law” that bans almost all abortions, which goes into effect Thursday.

The Biden administration’s guidance was an attempted response to concerns about the health of pregnant patients being turned away or delayed care by hospitals worried about abortion bans. The Texas Medical Association wrote a letter asking state regulators to “prevent any wrongful intrusion into the practice of medicine.”

Disclosure: The Texas Medical Association has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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