US Health and Human Services Protects Abortion Patients and Providers in Texas: “We Stand With You,” Says Secretary Xavier Becerra

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“The HHS is taking action to support and protect both patients and providers from this dangerous attack on Texan healthcare. … We tell doctors and others involved in providing abortion care that we support you. “

Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra with Nancy Pelosi in 2016. (House Democrats / Flickr)

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra announced on Friday new resources and actions to protect reproductive health care for Texans after state abortion prohibited at six weeks and the United States Supreme Court allowed the ban to come into effect September 1.

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

Texas law prohibits virtually all abortions, with no exceptions for rape or incest, and allows private citizens to sue anyone who helps a woman to have an abortion, rewarding them with a bounty of $ 10,000 plus fees. lawyer if they win a case.

The day after the ban took effect, President Joe Biden launched a “whole-of-government response” to explore options to strengthen access to safe and legal abortions in Texas. Biden asked the White House Office of the Council and its Gender Policy Council to involve the HHS and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to assess what “legal tools we have to isolate women and vendors. of the impact of Texas’ bizarre program of outsourced application for private parties.

On September 9, the DOJ filed a trial against Texas, seeking to block the abortion ban, and on September 14, they filed a motion for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction prohibit the application of SB 8

Secretary Becerra announced three actions the HHS will take, including:

  • subsidize support for clinics,
  • resources to protect health workers, and
  • strengthening legal protections for people who are pregnant or losing a pregnancy in Texas.

“In response to President Biden’s directive, the HHS is taking action to support and protect both patients and providers from this dangerous attack on Texan healthcare,” Becerra said.

Grants for clinics

First, the HHS has announced that it will provide additional funding to Every Texas body, which supports sexual and reproductive health care providers in Texas. The funding is intended to help clinics in Texas meet the expected increase in client needs for family planning, counseling and contraceptives, including emergency contraceptives, following SB 8.

Second, the HHS will make available up to $ 10 million in grants to expand access to emergency contraception and family planning services to other organizations demonstrating the need due to an influx of clients to the clinic. continuation of SB 8.

Protections for health care providers

Secretary Becerra announced that the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will apply the Church Amendments, who protect health workers from job-related discrimination because they performed or assisted with a legal abortion.

The HHS has issued guidelines outlining protections that prohibit recipients of grants, loans, contracts, or loan guarantees under the Public Health Services Act from discriminating in employment, promotion, or termination of employment. ’employment of any doctor or other health care personnel because the person performed or assisted in the performance of an abortion. Suppliers can file a complaint directly with the OCR if they believe they have been discriminated against in violation of the Church Amendments.

Protections for patients

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Abortion rights protesters march outside the Texas State Capitol in Austin. (Roxy Szal)

Finally, the HHS announced its intention to firmly enforce federal laws protecting patients’ rights to receive treatment under the Occupational and Emergency Medical Treatment Act (EMTALA) and the terms of participation in the. Health Insurance. EMTALA status requires that all patients receive appropriate medical screening, stabilizing treatment, and referral if necessary, regardless of laws or state mandates that apply to specific procedures. The law specifically includes pregnant patients.

Civil monetary penalties may be imposed against hospitals or individual physicians for EMTALA violations. Additionally, physicians may also be excluded from Medicare and Medicaid programs. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services also issued a memorandum to providers strengthening EMTALA and their legal obligations specific to pregnant or losing pregnancy patients.

“Today we are making it clear that physicians and hospitals have an obligation under federal law to make medical decisions about when it is appropriate to treat their patients,” Becerra said. “And we tell the doctors and others involved in providing abortion care that we support you.”

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