(Bloomberg) -- The Biden administration asked a judge to throw out a Texas lawsuit challenging a federal mandate that emergency abortions in hospitals take priority over state bans on such procedures, calling the rule “reasonable and reasonably explained.”
The guidance is needed to protect the lives of pregnant patients facing medical emergencies, after the US Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion, the Justice Department said in a motion to dismiss the suit late Monday in federal court in Lubbock, Texas.
The US Department of Health and Human Services issued the rule under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or Emtala, saying the law requires that physicians’ judgment prevail to protect the health of women in labor and with conditions such as ectopic pregnancies or dangerously high blood pressure. Texas called it an “abortion mandate.”
The rule “is fully consistent with the Constitution,” the Biden administration said in its filing, adding: “Far from being an ‘abortion mandate,’ the guidance is entirely consistent with -- and, in fact, flows directly from -- Emtala’s text, and does not conflict with other law.”
Read More: DOJ Sues Idaho in First Legal Action Against Abortion Bans
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has requested a temporary restraining order against the rule to prevent “imminent and irreparable injury.” The US argues the suit failed to include any claim that plaintiffs including the Christian Medical & Dental Associations have had to “choose between their religious convictions and potential enforcement action.”
HHS issued the rule following a directive from President Joe Biden to address concerns that emergency room care might be limited after Roe v. Wade was overturned. All states allow doctors to terminate a pregnancy if the mother’s life is at risk, but questions remain about what constitutes a life-or-death situation.
New York Attorney General Letitia James and her California counterpart, Xavier Becerra, led almost two dozen Democratic-led states in filing a brief in the Texas suit, as well as a related case in which the DOJ sued Idaho over a six-week abortion ban that allegedly violates Emtala.
“The actions being taken by Idaho and Texas are being watched by other states throughout the nation, and by anti-choice forces here in New York,” James said in a statement Tuesday. “States that are restricting access to abortion care are endangering people’s lives and creating a public health crisis.”
The case is Texas v. Becerra, 22-cv-00185; US District Court, Northern District of Texas (Lubbock).
(Updates with briefs filed by Democratic state AGs.)
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