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State News: Attorney General James Fights to Protect Access to Reproductive Health Care and Emergency Abortion Care

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today continued her fight to protect nationwide reproductive health care access and limit the effect of dangerous abortion bans. Co-leading a multistate coalition with California, Attorney General James filed two amicus briefs in U.S. District Courts in Idaho and Texas arguing that near total bans on abortion conflict with the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), which has consistently been interpreted to require healthcare providers to administer immediate emergency medical services to patients, including abortion care when required. In the briefs, the coalition of 21 attorneys generalexplains that abortion care has always been considered emergency care under EMTALA and failing to provide emergency abortion care harms pregnant patients and imposes pressures on the healthcare systems of neighboring states. 

“An assault on people’s rights anywhere is an attack on people’s rights everywhere. The actions being taken by Idaho and Texas are being watched by other states throughout the nation, and by anti-choice forces here in New York,” said Attorney General James. “States that are restricting access to abortion care are endangering people’s lives and creating a public health crisis. Access to safe abortion care is about saving lives and recognizing the right to bodily autonomy and privacy. New York will continue to lead the way and fight for abortion rights and reproductive freedom for all Americans.”  

Attorney General James co-led a multistate coalition in filing amicus briefs to protect abortion access in U.S. v. Idaho and Texas v. Becerra. In U.S. v. Idaho, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent Idaho’s new near total ban on abortion from eliminating necessary emergency abortion care, arguing that EMTALA protects abortion care. In Texas v. Becerra, Texas filed a lawsuit against Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra to prevent enforcement of EMTALA’s requirement to provide emergency abortion care. 

EMTALA requires hospitals to treat any patient’s emergency medical condition that could result in serious jeopardy to the patient’s health, including administering abortion care, to stabilize a patient’s medical condition. If a pregnant patient enters an emergency department with serious medical conditions related to the pregnancy, the hospital is required under EMTALA to treat the patient, including providing abortion care, to prevent serious harm to the patient’s health or to save the patient’s life. Under EMTALA, the hospital cannot transfer or discharge the patient until they are treated and stabilized. Therefore, a near total ban on abortions would prevent healthcare providers from administering emergency abortion care when needed. In the briefs, the coalition explains that denying patients emergency abortion care harms pregnant patients and endangers their lives. Furthermore, the coalition points out that preventing physicians from providing emergency abortion care burdens healthcare systems in other states and potentially create a public health crisis. 

New York and California co-led the amici briefs filed in the U.S. District Courts in Idaho and the Northern District of Texas. Joining them are the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Attorney General James has been a prolific fighter for abortion rights and abortion access. In June, Attorney General James launched a legal hotline to help provide legal guidance to patients, healthcare providers, and supporters seeking information about their legal rights. In May, Attorney General James supported state legislation to establish a state program to provide financial resources to abortion providers in New York and called for a New York state Constitutional Amendment ensuring the right to an abortion

Attorney General James has helped lead a coalition of states’ attorneys general in combatting efforts to restrict abortion access. In December 2021, she filed an amicus brief supporting a challenge to Arizona’s “reason ban” that prohibits abortion when it is sought because of the presence of a fetal abnormality. In November 2021, she filed an amicus brief supporting a constitutional challenge to several Indiana laws that impose burdensome restrictions on abortion providers that are not imposed on other health care providers. In October 2021, she filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to stop Texas’ unconstitutional six-week abortion ban, Senate Bill 8 (SB 8), by vacating a Fifth Circuit order that let the abortion ban continue to take effect. In September 2021, she filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court supporting a challenge to a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks

The amicus brief was prepared by Assistant Solicitor General Laura Etlinger, Deputy Solicitor General Ester Murdukhayeva, and Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood. 

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