DALLAS — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit Thursday against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over its new abortion guidance.
The guidance this week followed an executive order issued last week by President Joe Biden that looks to protect access to reproductive health care services. In his order, Biden directed the Department of Health and Human Services to protect and expand access to abortions conducted with medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration, protect access to contraception and ensure that pregnant people have access to emergency medical care should they suffer a pregnancy loss.
Under this directive, federal health officials affirmed that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act protects providers when offering legally mandated life- or health-saving abortion services in emergency situations.
Paxton, a Republican, said the move “seeks to transform every emergency room in the country into a walk-in abortion clinic.” He also accused the Biden administration of mandating that “hospitals and emergency medicine physicians perform abortions.”
“(The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act) does not authorize and has never been thought to authorize the federal government to require emergency health care providers to perform abortions,” Paxton said in a statement. “It says nothing about abortion.”
Health Secretary Xavier Becerra has said the guidance is specific to emergency care where the life of the pregnant person is at risk. He added that the federal government expects providers to continue offering emergency care — including abortion care — regardless of state law.
“Federal law preempts state abortion bans when needed for emergency care,” Becerra said in a statement. “Protecting both patients and providers is a top priority, particularly in this moment.”
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said Paxton’s lawsuit suggests “there is truly no limit to his and Texas Republicans’ depravity and extremism.”
“For Paxton to argue for limitations on emergency care — even if it is needed to save the life of the mother — just so he can plow forward with his radical, wildly unpopular far-right agenda is heinous and appalling,” Hinojosa said in a statement. “This is not about being ‘pro-life.’ This is about forcing birth, even when it will literally kill women.”