Coalition Explains that District Court’s Misinterpretation of Federal Law Will Harm Patients, Physicians, and the Public Interest

Washington, D.C. –Six of the nation’s leading professional organizations of physicians and public health experts, including the professional societies of emergency physicians and obstetrician-gynecologists, submitted a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Fifth Circuit in support of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) guidance on the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA). This brief explains how Texas’ challenge—and the lower court ruling enjoining HHS’s guidance—misunderstands both federal law and the on-the-ground practice of emergency medicine. The case is State of Texas v. Becerra

The brief was filed on behalf of the American College of Emergency Physicians, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Public Health Association. The organizations are represented  by Democracy Forward and Debevoise & Plimpton. 

“With this brief, the nation’s leading medical voices are again making clear that efforts to interfere in the relationship between a patient and their medical professional are not only bad law but bad medicine,” said Jeffrey Dubner, Deputy Legal Director at Democracy Forward. “We urge the Fifth Circuit to reverse the lower court’s ruling, which misunderstood both EMTALA and the realities of emergency care.” 

The brief explains that, contrary to Texas’s claims, HHS’s post-Dobbs EMTALA guidance is not an “abortion mandate,” nor does it turn emergency rooms into “walk-in abortion clinic[s].” It merely restates physicians’ obligations under federal law and medical ethics to provide stabilizing care in times of emergency, and explains how those obligations may manifest themselves in real-world emergency room situations involving pregnant patients. 

The brief further explains that “[w]e are already seeing, in tragedy after tragedy, the results when physicians treating emergency medical conditions are unable to provide the stabilizing treatment that they deem necessary. Forcing doctors and hospitals to refrain from treating a pregnant patient until they are on death’s door will result in increased maternal morbidity, more women unable to have children in the future, and—worst of all, preventable deaths.”

Read the brief here