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Court Rules That Federal Emergency Room Law Does Not Require Doctors To Perform Abortions

A federal court of appeals upheld a previous ruling Tuesday that a law requiring hospitals to treat patients dealing with an emergency does not apply to abortions.

A district court ruled in August 2022 that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) cannot force states like Texas, which has outlawed abortion, to require a doctor to provide abortion services under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTLA), which prohibits hospitals from turning away emergency patients, according to CNN. HHS appealed the decision, but the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the lower court had not erred in its decision and upheld an injunction preventing the department from forcing the state of Texas to comply, according to court documents.

“As previously discussed, EMTALA does not mandate medical treatments, let alone abortion care, nor does it preempt Texas law,” the opinion reads. “The injunction squarely enjoins HHS from enforcing the Guidance and Letter regarding these two issues within the State of Texas and against the plaintiff organizations… The district court was correct in tailoring the injunction based on the parties, issues, and evidence before it.”

Abortion is currently banned in Texas after a fetal heartbeat is detected, typically around six weeks, but HHS argues that EMTLA’s “stabilizing treatment definition is broad and does not exclude any form of medical care,” including abortions, according to court documents. The appeals court dismissed this, saying that “various traditional rules of interpretation, in Texas’s view, do not support HHS’s argument,” and that “HHS’ Guidance exceeds the statutory language.”

The lawsuit was initially filed by the state and then joined by the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Christian Medical and Dental Association in July 2022, according to court documents.

The Department of Justice is also suing the state of Idaho over its abortion law, claiming that it prevents doctors from performing their duties under EMTLA. The case is currently waiting on a decision from Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.

HHS did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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