The federal government has launched an investigation after two hospitals in abortion-hostile states “did not offer necessary stabilizing care to an individual experiencing an emergency medical condition, in violation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA),” per the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
As CNN reported, EMTALA requires providers nationwide to offer treatment — including abortions — if they determine it is “necessary to stabilize the patient’s emergency medical condition.” But officials from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) believe two hospitals in Missouri and Kansas failed to do this for Mylissa Farmer, a pregnant woman who had a life-threatening emergency complication.
At 18 weeks of pregnancy, Farmer experienced a preterm rupture of membranes and was told her pregnancy wasn’t viable.
“Although her doctors advised her that her condition could rapidly deteriorate, they also advised that they could not provide her with the care that would prevent infection, hemorrhage, and potentially death because, they said, the hospital policies prohibited treatment that could be considered an abortion,” wrote HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.
Fortunately, Farmer survived — but she never should have experienced this “terrifying ordeal” in the first place, Becerra said.
“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to patient safety and protecting people’s access to the health care they need,” Becerra added. “Today, we send a reminder to hospitals participating in Medicare: You are obligated under EMTALA to offer stabilizing care to patients who need emergency care, and we will not hesitate to enforce your obligations under the law.”
These hospitals could face serious penalties for violating EMTALA.
EMTALA was passed in the ’80s. Following last summer’s repeal of Roe v. Wade — the landmark Supreme Court ruling that safeguarded abortion access nationwide for nearly 50 years — HHS issued new guidance affirming that EMTALA encompasses abortions.
Hospitals found to be in violation of EMTALA could face civil penalties and lose their Medicare and Medicaid provider agreements. Physicians implicated in an EMTALA violation also risk civil penalties.
In a statement, the National Women’s Law Center, which filed a lawsuit on behalf of Farmer, said this investigation marks the first time the federal government has enforced EMTALA against a hospital that refused abortion care.
“This is an important step in getting Mylissa some justice for the harm she suffered, but no one should ever go through this in the first place,” said Michelle Banker, one of the lead attorneys representing Farmer. “Other hospitals should take heed — there are consequences for denying people emergency abortion care.”
This ‘terrifying ordeal’ only happened because ‘Roe v. Wade’ was repealed.
What happened to Farmer is directly linked to the reversal of Roe v. Wade last June.
Post-Roe, states are now able to ban or restrict abortions. Today, the procedure is virtually impossible to obtain in 14 U.S. states — and many of these states offer few exceptions, even in cases where a pregnant person’s life is at risk.
Farmer was denied care at hospitals in Missouri and Kansas. In Missouri, abortions are banned with few exceptions. The law also requires counseling and a 72-hour wait period before obtaining the procedure.
Kansas outlawed abortion at or after 22 weeks of pregnancy with a mandatory 24-hour wait period.
The state of abortion access in the U.S. is looking increasingly bleak. Last month, an anti-abortion group in Texas motioned to ban the medical abortion drug mifepristone by revoking its FDA approval.
Also in April, Idaho passed a first-of-its-kind law that allows the prosecution of any adult who helps a minor get an abortion.
Pro-choice advocates and politicians are attempting to combat these attacks on abortion access. After all, abortions are safe, common, and nothing to be ashamed about. But without federal protections under Roe v. Wade, there’s nothing stopping state lawmakers from outlawing the procedure.
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