Attorney General Tong Files Briefs Defending Access to Emergency Abortion Care(Hartford, CT) –Attorney General William Tong this week joined a coalition of 21 attorneys general filing two amicus briefs in USA v. Idaho and Texas v. Becerra defending access to emergency abortion care.
The cases involve the federal government’s interpretation and enforcement of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), which requires hospitals to provide stabilizing emergency treatment -- including abortions, if medically indicated.
“Emergency rooms are required to provide lifesaving treatment under federal law. Period,” said Attorney General Tong. “In a variety of emergency scenarios, that includes abortion. That decision must be made by medical experts and patients -- not politicians. State laws—including the Texas and Idaho abortion bans—cannot force doctors to endanger the lives of their patients,” said Attorney General Tong.
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 can put at risk the pregnant patient’s life or health. For example, since Texas’ abortion ban (S.B. 8) took effect on September 1, 2021, pregnant people in Texas have experienced delays in treatment and corresponding harms to their health. Doctors in Texas reported postponing care “until a patient’s health or pregnancy complication has deteriorated to the point that their life was in danger, including multiple cases where patients were sent home, only to return once they were in sepsis.”
Texas v. Becerra
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 filed in Texas v. Becerra, the Amici States argue 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.
USA v. Idaho
In 2020, Idaho enacted S.B. 1385, which criminalizes all abortions and imposes prison time on anyone who performs, assists, or attempts to perform an abortion – even in the context of emergency care. With the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization overturning Roe v. Wade, Idaho’s law was triggered to automatically take effect on August 25. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit challenging Idaho’s ban on August 2, arguing that it conflicts with protections afforded by EMTALA, a federal law requiring doctors to provide medically necessary treatment in emergency departments, including abortion care for pregnant patients. Today’s multistate amicus brief supports the federal government’s challenge.
In filing the briefs, Attorney General Tong joined the attorneys general of California, New York, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia.