- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for AG Healey Joins Multistate Coalition in Support of Abortion Rights
Thomas Dalton, Deputy Press Secretary
BOSTON — Attorney General Maura Healey today joined a coalition of 21 attorneys general led by California and New York in filing two amicus briefs supporting the federal government’s defense of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) to preserve abortion access in Idaho and Texas.
The first brief, filed in United States of America v. Idaho, argues that Idaho’s abortion ban conflicts with EMTALA, which requires hospitals to provide stabilizing emergency treatment, including abortion care when necessary. The brief further argues that the Idaho ban’s disregard for EMTALA puts at risk the lives and health of individuals with pregnancy-related emergency medical conditions and places additional strain on the public health systems of states like Massachusetts that protect abortion access.
The second brief, filed in Texas v. Becerra, supports the federal government’s defense of EMTALA against Texas’ attempt to broadly exempt abortion care from emergency healthcare. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidance reiterating EMTALA’s existing obligations that require hospitals to provide stabilizing emergency treatment, including abortion. Texas filed a lawsuit challenging EMTALA’s longstanding interpretation and seeking to remove abortion care from emergency healthcare under the law. In the brief, the coalition argues that Texas’ challenge conflicts with the plain text of EMTALA as well as decades of precedent and puts at risk the lives and health of individuals with pregnancy-related emergency medical conditions.
“Abortion is basic, life-saving health care, and it must remain legal and accessible,” said AG Healey. “State governments cannot violate federal law and deprive emergency medical treatment to those who need it.”
In the briefs, state attorneys general underscore that every hospital that operates an emergency department and participates in Medicare is subject to EMTALA — criteria met by virtually every hospital in the United States. Under the law, emergency rooms are required to provide all patients who have an emergency medical condition with the treatment required to stabilize the medical condition. Many patients seek emergency medical care due to pregnancy-related medical emergencies that may require abortion care, including ectopic pregnancy, hemorrhage, amniotic fluid embolism, pre-labor rupture of membranes, intrauterine fetal death, and hypertension. If immediate treatment is not provided, these medical conditions could jeopardize patients’ health and even result in disability or death. Decades of federal guidance and judicial interpretation have held that stabilizing treatment under EMTALA includes emergency abortion care.
The coalition argues that preventing hospitals from performing abortions needed to treat an emergency medical condition, as determined by a treating physician, threatens the health and lives of pregnant patients. Many pregnancy and miscarriage complications are emergency medical conditions requiring time-sensitive stabilizing treatment that can include abortion. In an emergency situation, any failure to provide, or delays in providing, necessary abortion care puts the pregnant patient’s life or health at risk. Delaying life-saving emergency treatment is also gravely risky because physicians cannot easily predict at which point during a medical emergency a pregnant patient’s life may be imminently threatened.
The briefs also argue that allowing bans on abortion care in medical emergencies where it is required under EMTALA risks significant effects in other states as well. If hospitals in states like Texas or Idaho fail to comply with their obligations under EMTALA, Amici States anticipate even further strain on their state health systems. State-level abortion restrictions force many women to travel out of state for care. If abortion access is further limited or banned outright in states like Texas or Idaho, emergency rooms in neighboring states that protect abortion will inevitably need to absorb additional out-of-state emergency patients, at a time when the States continue to wrestle with an ongoing global pandemic and new public health crisis.
In filing today’s briefs, AG Healey is joined by the attorneys general of: California, New York, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia.