AUSTIN — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an injunction Wednesday seeking to pause a provision in new federal guidance that requires the performance of an abortion in medical emergencies.
The mandate, issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in July, affirmed under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act that hospitals and physicians must perform abortions in emergent situations where the life of the pregnant person is at risk.
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra warned that noncompliant hospitals could be subject to “termination of its Medicare provider agreement and/or the imposition of civil monetary penalties.”
Paxton alleges the mandate requires doctors and hospitals to choose between performing abortions in violation of Texas abortion laws or caring for women while incurring fines and the loss of federal funding.
“The Biden administration seeks to codify a right to abortion by rogue agency action that requires hospitals and physicians to perform elective abortions in violation of Texas law,” the brief reads.
Paxton previously sued the Biden administration for the mandate, but is now seeking a temporary restraining order to halt enforcement while the case is litigated. The motion states that injunctive relief is necessary because the federal agency lacked statutory authority to adopt the mandate and failed to follow required procedures for adopting a rule.
Paxton said Texas still permits abortions to occur when the life of the pregnant person is in danger, adding that federal law does not empower the government to change that. Instead, it requires hospitals to treat patients the same regardless of their ability to pay, but “does not authorize the federal government to commandeer the practice of medicine,” he said.
“While the Biden administration continues to make up rules that are unconstitutional, I will keep holding them accountable,” Paxton said in a statement. “I will not allow the Biden administration to threaten doctors and hospitals with this unlawful mandate and put millions of Texans’ access to health care on the line.”
The mandate was part of the Biden administration’s latest attempt to protect physicians in anti-abortion states.
DHHS officials could not be reached for comment on Paxton’s motion.
Texas’ so-called trigger law will take effect Aug. 25, banning all abortions in the state from the point of conception. Violations are punishable with up to life in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.