The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced several actions Friday aimed at protecting reproductive rights in Texas following passage of a bill that outlaws all abortions in the state after 6 weeks’ gestation.
“Every American deserves access to health care no matter where they live – including access to safe and legal abortions,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a press release. “HHS is taking actions to support and protect both patients and providers from this dangerous attack on Texans’ health care. Today we are making clear that doctors and hospitals have an obligation under federal law to make medical decisions regarding when it’s appropriate to treat their patients. And we are telling doctors and others involved in the provision of abortion care that we have your back.”
The law known as Senate Bill (S.B.) 8, which became effective on Sept. 1, has no exceptions for rape or incest but does include an exception for medical emergencies. The law also allows private citizens to sue healthcare workers, family members, or friends who help a patient get an illegal abortion, with the possibility of receiving a statutory award of at least $10,000 if the suit is successful.
When the law took effect, the White House issued a statement calling it “extreme” and adding that it “blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v. Wade and upheld as precedent for nearly half a century. The Texas law will significantly impair women’s access to the health care they need, particularly for communities of color and individuals with low incomes.”
Friday’s actions by HHS include:
Increasing Title X grant support. Grantees in the Title X program, which provides federal funding for family planning services, received nearly $19 million last week; now HHS is giving additional funds to Every Body Texas, a current Title X family planning grantee, “to respond to the anticipated increase in clients’ needs for emergency contraception and family planning services,” HHS said in the release.
In addition, the agency “plans to award up to $10 million in grants to expand access to emergency contraception and family planning services to any Title X services-eligible applicant that can demonstrate a need resulting from an influx of clients as a result of S.B. 8 as well as states around the country with increased needs overall.”
Issuing guidance regarding enforcement of non-discrimination rules. The release noted that the Church Amendment, which was cited often by the Trump administration, protects healthcare personnel from employment discrimination if they object to performing abortion, sterilization, or biomedical activities because of their religious beliefs or moral convictions, but “this law also protects health care personnel from discrimination related to their employment because they performed or assisted with a lawful abortion”; the agency therefore issued guidance outlining protections for those workers as well.
Reminding healthcare providers about the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) and Medicare Conditions of Participation. The EMTALA statute requires that all patients receive an appropriate medical screening, stabilizing treatment, and transfer without regard to any state laws or mandates that apply to specific procedures; to remind providers of these rules, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued a memo to providers reinforcing EMTALA and legal obligations “specific to pregnant patients or patients experiencing pregnancy loss,” according to the release….
The above comes from a Sept. 17 story on MedPage Today.