- The CMS said Monday it is launching investigations into two hospitals that it says violated follow federal law by refusing to provide an abortion for a patient who experienced a medical emergency while pregnant.
- The agency said the hospitals violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act by failing to provide needed stabilizing care — which it has emphasized includes abortion procedures, according to a letter to providers from HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.
- The hospitals under investigation are Freeman Health System in Joplin, Missouri, and University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kansas. The University of Kansas Health System said in a statement it “met the standard of care based upon the facts known at the time.” Freeman Health System did not respond to requests for comment.
The patient, a Missouri woman, experienced a preterm premature rupture of membranes at 18 weeks of pregnancy in August. Doctors said her condition could deteriorate rapidly, but that hospital policies prevented them from providing treatment that could be considered an abortion.
“As healthcare providers on the front lines, the care you provide is critical for patients experiencing emergency medical conditions,” Becerra wrote in his letter. “Recent news reports have highlighted the troubling experiences of many pregnant women presenting to hospital emergency departments with emergency medical conditions and not being offered necessary stabilizing treatment or being turned away.”
Some pregnant people have reported difficulty receiving reproductive care after the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to an abortion in June, allowing states to restrict the procedure.
The HHS has repeatedly warned providers that they are required to provide emergency medical care, including abortions, regardless of state bans. Some states, however, have pushed back.
A federal judge in Texas blocked the guidance that protects providers performing abortions in emergency situations and banned it from being enforced. The Department of Justice appealed the decision in March.
The DOJ also sued the state of Idaho in August, arguing that its abortion ban was in direct conflict with EMTALA. A federal judge agreed with the DOJ and blocked part of the state ban that same month.
Health systems have also faced pressure over the issue. A letter to Tenet Health shareholders last month urged them to require the hospital to clarify its policies regarding emergency abortions at the upcoming shareholders meeting.