Biden administration announces federal support for patients, abortion providers in Texas

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The Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) announced on Friday several actions it plans to take to protect patients and abortion providers in Texas following a recently enacted abortion law in the state.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court declined to block a Texas abortion law, which allows abortions to be banned once a “fetal heartbeat” has been detected, which often happens before a woman knows she is pregnant. Private citizens can sue those who they believe aided or performed the medical procedure, garnering $10,000 for each successful suit.

Since the Supreme Court ruling, the Biden administration has vowed to fight the measure.

Among the initiatives announced by HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra is additional funding for Every Body Texas, a nonprofit that distributes money to sexual and reproductive health care clinics throughout Texas.

Up to $10 million would also be given in grants to clinics that have seen a higher number of clients following the recently enacted Texas law in addition to other clinics across the country. 

HHS also noted that a memorandum was issued by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reinforcing federal protections, saying that health care professionals are obligated to treat a patient “who presents to the emergency department and is found to have an emergency medical condition preempts any directly conflicting state law or mandate that might seek to prevent such treatment,” according to the department.

Additionally, the department put out guidance that said that Public Health Service Act recipients who receive contracts, loans and grants from the government are prohibited from discriminating against health care workers under the Church Amendments if they aided or performed an abortion.

“Every American deserves access to health care no matter where they live – including access to safe and legal abortions,” Becerra said in a statement.

“Now, in response to President Biden’s directive, 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,” he added. “And we are telling doctors and others involved in the provision of abortion care, that we have your back.”

The announcement comes as the Biden administration is seeking to fight the Texas abortion law. Earlier this week, the Department of Justice filed a motion asking for either a preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order that would halt the ban from going into effect.

“This relief is necessary to protect the constitutional rights of women in Texas and the sovereign interest of the United States in ensuring that its States respect the terms of the national compact,” the department wrote in its motion.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) press secretary, Renae Eze, told The Hill in a statement on Thursday they were “confident that the courts will uphold and protect that right to life.”

“The most precious freedom is life itself. Texas passed a law that ensures that the life of every child with a heartbeat will be spared from the ravages of abortion,” Eze said in her statement Thursday. “Unfortunately, President Biden and his Administration are more interested in changing the national narrative from their disastrous Afghanistan evacuation and reckless open border policies instead of protecting the innocent unborn.” 

A federal judge has scheduled a hearing for Oct. 1, agreeing to hear arguments at Texas’s request, meaning that the ban will be effective for roughly a month before the judge weighs in.

The Hill has reached out to Abbott’s office for further comment.

Tags Abortion Greg Abbott Greg Abbott HHS Joe Biden Texas Xavier Becerra Xavier Becerra

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