Advance Notice: Briefs

Nessel joins Democratic AGs in brief backing emergency abortion care

By: - May 15, 2023 10:19 am

Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks at a rally with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other Michigan Democrats in Ann Arbor, Mich. on Nov. 4, 2022. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

Michigan’s attorney general joined 21 other Democratic attorneys general this week in contesting a Texas judge’s decision that a federal law requiring hospitals to provide emergency care does not require facilities to provide abortions to save the life of the patient.

Two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, President Joe Biden signed a Protecting Access to Reproductive Healthcare Services Executive Order, which, among other things, offered guidance of federal law concerning emergency health care.

Federal judge sides with Texas, blocks HHS guidance on emergency abortions

The Biden administration asserted that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which sets requirements for care in emergency situations, would require physicians to provide emergency abortions when necessary.

Shortly after the biden administration issued guidance, Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services contesting the guidance. A judge blocked the law’s usage for emergency abortion in Texas.

“This administration has a hard time following the law, and now they are trying to have their appointed bureaucrats mandate that hospitals and emergency medicine physicians perform abortions,” Paxton said in a news release in July 2022. “I will ensure that President Biden will be forced to comply with the Supreme Court’s important decision concerning abortion and I will not allow him to undermine and distort existing laws to fit his administration’s unlawful agenda.” 

Before the Texas lawsuit had been filed, U.S.Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra issued a letter to health care providers informing them they not only had the freedom to provide emergency abortions, but if deemed to be the appropriate course of action, physicians are required to provide that care.

“It is critical that providers know that a physician or other qualified medical personnel’s professional and legal duty to provide stabilizing medical treatment to a patient who presents to the emergency department and is found to have an emergency medical condition preempts any directly conflicting state law or mandate that might otherwise prohibit such treatment,” Becerra said 

The group of attorneys general opposing the Texas judge’s decision supports the Biden administration’s guidance on the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act and writes in their amicus brief that the decision not only hurts Texans, but endangers emergency health care in other states.

“Federal law requires emergency abortion care in hospitals receiving Medicare funds regardless of state law,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a news release last week. “Texas’ laws broadly banning abortion are clearly contrary to EMTALA and I stand firmly with my colleagues in urging the reversal of the district court’s decision.” 


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Anna Liz Nichols
Anna Liz Nichols

Anna Liz Nichols covers government and statewide issues, including criminal justice, environmental issues, education and domestic and sexual violence. Anna is a former state government reporter for The Associated Press and most recently was a reporter for the Detroit News. Anna is a graduate of Michigan State University.