HHS reminded healthcare providers Monday that they are legally required to provide emergency medical care to patients, which may include abortions, regardless of state laws banning abortions.
"Under the law, no matter where you live, women have the right to emergency care — including abortion care,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
Becerra sent a letter, dated Monday, to providers across the country reminding them of their legal obligations under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, commonly referred to as EMTALA.
In the letter, Becerra said the federal statute "protects" the clinical judgment providers may take in treating pregnant patients.
To ensure access to emergency care, EMTALA, enacted in 1986, requires hospitals to stabilize patients and transfer them if necessary.
Pregnant people may experience emergency complications and there has been concern and confusion regarding whether state laws banning abortions restrict emergency care in certain situations, including ectopic pregnancy, hypertensive disorders, preeclampsia and miscarriage complications.
Becerra's letter attempted to assuage provider concerns.
"Any state laws or mandates that employ a more restrictive definition of an emergency medical condition are preempted by the EMTALA statute," Becerra said in the letter.
The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has pushed abortion regulation to the states, and half the country is poised to ban abortions.
That has created confusion for providers as so-called trigger laws went into effect along with laws that are still on the books and pre-date the Roe decision.