HHS Says Hospitals, Doctors Must Provide Abortions in Emergencies

“[I]f a physician believes that a pregnant patient at an emergency department, including certain labor and delivery departments, is experiencing an emergency medical condition as defined by EMTALA, and that abortion is the stabilizing treatment necessary to resolve that condition, the physician must provide that treatment.” The Biden administration on Monday said doctors and hospitals need to follow the federal Emergency Medical Treatment & Active Labor Act (EMTALA) law and provide abortions if there is a medical emergency and the health or life of the patient is at risk, regardless of state law. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reaffirmed that EMTALA protects providers when offering legally mandated, life- or health-saving abortion services in emergency situations and that the federal government can penalize doctors or hospitals that fail to provide care in those circumstances. The law leaves it up to a physician to determine what qualifies as an emergency medical condition for a pregnant patient, but the administration listed examples such as ectopic pregnancy, complications of miscarriage or severe preeclampsia. EMTALA is a complaint-driven process and an investigation can’t occur without a complaint to the federal government. Each violation will cost a hospital $119,942 if it has over 100 beds and $59,973 for hospitals under 100 beds. Hospitals could also lose their Medicare and Medicaid provider agreements, and private citizens who are harmed by a physician’s or hospital’s failure to provide stabilizing treatment may file a civil suit against the hospital to obtain damages. Individual physicians could also face civil penalties of $119,942 per violation. Click here to access the CMS Memo.