Health & Science

Federal judge in Texas blocks Biden from protecting certain abortion providers

Paxton celebrated the news Wednesday morning by hailing the decision as a victory for the anti-abortion movement.

KUT abortion rights photo2
Michael Minasi / KUT News
A sign cut intno the shape of a woman with the text, “Not Property Of SCOTUS” is pictured as abortion rights advocates hold an all-day sit-in in the rotunda of the Texas State Capitol on July 7, 2022, in Austin.

A federal judge in Texas has blocked the Biden administration's guidance on abortion that stated doctors who provide the procedure in emergency situations are protected by federal law.

The decision, from U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix, was handed down late Tuesday, Reuters reported. Hendrix is based in Lubbock and his ruling comes after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued last month to prevent the guidance from going into effect.

Texas is one of several states with a near-total ban on abortion. Currently on the books is Senate bill 8, a law that bans the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy. A 1925 law that opens abortion providers to civil penalties and lawsuits was also resurrected by the Texas Supreme Court last month.

In the July guidance, Biden's Department of Health and Human Services said the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act protects abortion providers when they offer "legally mandated, life- or health-saving abortion services in emergency situations,” Axios reported.

Paxton celebrated the news Wednesday morning by hailing the decision as a victory for the anti-abortion movement.

"Another win against Biden. I recently sued Biden to block his attempt to use HHS regs to transform every emergency room in the country into a walk-in abortion clinic," Paxton tweeted. "Last night, the court ruled in favor of Texas! A WIN for mothers, babies, & the TX healthcare industry."

The Biden administration issued the guidance after the U.S. Supreme Court's late June overturning of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that guaranteed a person's right to terminate a pregnancy.

In the Texas lawsuit, Paxton argued the Biden administration was ignoring the high court's decision.

"President Biden is flagrantly disregarding the legislative and democratic process—and flouting the Supreme Court's ruling before the ink is dry—by having his appointed bureaucrats mandate that hospitals and emergency medicine physicians must perform abortions," he argued in the filing.

Judge Hendrix ruled that the Biden administration's guidance was unauthorized and extended beyond the scope of current law, Reuters reported. The ruling came just days before Texas' so-called "trigger law" goes into effect Thursday.

That law, Texas House Bill 1280, makes it a second-degree felony "for a person who knowingly performs, induces, or attempts an abortion" according to the bill analysis. The penalty increases to a first-degree infraction "if the unborn child dies as a result of the offense." There is no exception for rape or incest.

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Got a tip? Email Julián Aguilar at jaguilar@kera.org.You can follow Julián on Twitter @nachoaguilar.

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