The Biden administration said this week that under federal law, it will require health care providers to offer abortion services when a pregnant woman in emergency medical condition needs the procedure to be stabilized.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced that abortion procedures conducted to save the mother’s life would be protected under federal law, regardless of any state’s ban on abortion.
According to the agency, should a woman need emergency services that require an abortion, a doctor “must provide that treatment.” The HHS guidance stated that the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act pre-empts any state law that restricts the needed service.
Those emergency services include “ectopic pregnancy, complications of pregnancy loss, or emergent hypertensive disorders, such as preeclampsia with severe features,” the department said.
President Joe Biden on Sunday said he was considering declaring an abortion-related public health emergency following June’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dodd v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion.
“Protecting both patients and providers is a top priority, particularly in this moment,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said of the guidance. “We will continue to leverage all available resources at HHS to make sure women can access the lifesaving care they need.”
A spokeswoman for the Mississippi attorney general’s office told The Wall Street Journal that the guidance was not necessary because in most states, including Mississippi, abortion laws include an exception for life-threatening emergencies.
Sara Rosenbaum, a health policy and law professor at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, said that while the guidance is welcomed, it needs to be clearer.
“It doesn’t clarify all that it needs to around what exists as an emergency and what is stabilizing treatment,” Rosenbaum said.
“With the change in the law, people providing certain services have raised questions to the authorities inside the hospital — the legal authorities — just to make sure what their direction should be,” Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, which represents for-profit hospitals, told The Washington Post.