U.S. Judge Blocks Federal Guidance on Emergency Abortions in Texas

A federal judge in Texas has blocked a Biden administration guidance that required hospitals to provide emergency abortions. 

The Biden guidance told hospitals across the nation, even in states like Texas, to provide women with emergency abortions in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the federal constitutional right to an abortion when it U-turned on its view of the landmark Roe v Wade decision. 

The Texas judge, however, decided that the White House could not tell the state what to do on the matter. 

The legal effort by the Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, a hardcore Republican, represents the latest attempt to stop the federal government from influencing the reproductive access landscape in the aftermath of the supreme court’s decision, which overturned longstanding constitutional protections on abortion.

When the Supreme Court decided to overturn Roe, it decided that states would be able to dictate whether to protect women’s reproductive rights. 

As a result, there has been a patchwork interpretation of rights across America, with abortion bans spreading in Republican-led states. 

In Texas, Judge James Wesley Hendrix, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, decided that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was “overreaching” in its guidance. 

That governmental department had interpreted the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, a 1986 law that requires people receive emergency medical care regardless of their ability to pay.

Hendrix did stop short of blocking the guidance nationally, keeping the prohibition only in the state of Texas. 

The fight is far from over. The decision sets the stage for another anticipated ruling in a justice department lawsuit against a recent abortion ban in Idaho that involves the same federal law at the heart of the Texas case.

That ruling is expected on Wednesday.

Hendrix’s decision came just one day before a so-called “trigger law” barring nearly all abortions went into effect on Wednesday. The law, passed by the Texas legislature in 2021, increases the criminal and civil penalties on those involved with abortions except the pregnant patient, the Texas Tribune reported. Since the Dobbs decision, clinics have stopped offering services, forcing people to travel to other states to seek out abortions.

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