Judge in Texas blocks Biden administration emergency abortion guidance

By Nate Raymond 

(Reuters) -A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration late on Tuesday from enforcing new guidance in the Republican-led state requiring hospitals to provide emergency abortions to women regardless of state bans on the procedure.

U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix in Lubbock agreed with Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ guidance was unauthorized and went beyond the text of a related federal law.

The judge declined to enjoin the guidance nationwide and instead only barred HHS from enforcing it and its interpretation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act in Texas and against two anti-abortion groups of doctors.

HHS and Paxton did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Hendrix ruled ahead of an expected Wednesday ruling by another judge on whether a near-total ban in Idaho challenged by the U.S. Department of Justice conflicts with the same federal statute at issue in Texas’s case.

The guidance came after President Joe Biden, a Democrat, signed an executive order in July seeking to ease access to services to terminate pregnancies after the Supreme Court on June 24 overturned the Roe v. Wade ruling recognizing a nationwide right of women to obtain abortions.

Abortion services ceased in Texas after the state’s highest court on July 2, at Paxton’s urging, cleared the way for a nearly century-old abortion ban to take effect.

In his ruling, Hendrix, an appointee of former Republican President Donald Trump, said the guidance went too far in extending that 1986 federal law, which seeks to ensure hospitals provide emergency medical care for the poor and uninsured.

“That Guidance goes well beyond EMTALA’s text, which protects both mothers and unborn children, is silent as to abortion, and preempts state law only when the two directly conflict,” he wrote.

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