Texas is suing the Biden administration over the president’s guidance this week reminding doctors of their obligation to provide abortion care in emergency medical situations, citing the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA). In other words, Texas is suing for the distinctly “pro-life” right to let women and pregnant people die rather have an abortion. If successful, the suit could establish a nationwide injunction against the guidance—a possible death sentence for pregnant people who experience complications.
In a truly twisted legal complaint filed Thursday, Texas references the fall of “the terrible regime of Roe v. Wade” and accuses Biden’s guidance of being an “attempt to use federal law to transform every emergency room in the country into a walk-in abortion clinic.” The complaint also accuses the administration of “[forcing] hospitals and doctors to commit crimes and risk their licensure under Texas law”—formally relegating the act of providing abortion care to a literal crime.
The legal complaint somehow gets worse, arguing that “no federal statute confers a right to abortion,” and “EMTALA is no different”:
“It does not guarantee access to abortion. On the contrary, EMTALA contemplates that an emergency medical condition is one that threatens the life of the unborn child. It is obvious that abortion does not preserve the life or health of an unborn child.”
The overturning of Roe last month means we’re living in the era of saying the quiet part out loud, when it comes to just how little regard the government has for women and pregnant people’s humanity—and that’s exactly what this particular bit from Texas’ complaint does. EMTALA, passed in 1986, requires doctors to provide stabilizing, emergency care to people amid pregnancy-related complications. Per Texas’ interpretation, “people” aren’t born, living pregnant people, someone with loved ones, hopes, and dreams—“people” are fetuses.
Texas’ suit is expected to be decided by district judges appointed by either Presidents Trump or Nixon, all but guaranteeing a possible nationwide injunction against the guidance. It’s impossible to say how many pregnant people could die, or almost die, as a result of anti-abortion state governments’ unflinching need to force people to remain pregnant. The U.S. already has the highest maternal mortality rate among wealthy nations—Black pregnant people are three times more likely than white pregnant people to die from birth or pregnancy-related causes.
Exceptions to abortion bans when the pregnant person’s life is at risk have never been perfect, due to lack of clarity about what constitutes a threat and at what point a doctor can intervene and not face prison-time. It’s also endlessly frustrating that we need guidances like Biden’s at all, when a life-affirming health service like abortion shouldn’t be banned and criminalized in the fucking first place. Yet, still, this—the idea that a woman, a pregnant person, a full human being, shouldn’t have to die over the warped politics of a tiny minority of elites—is somehow, apparently, too much to ask for.
And we can hardly look to Congress for help, either. Right now, while Texas attempts to force a national death sentence for pregnant people who experience complications, Senate Republicans want to trap pregnant people in their anti-abortion states that are literally trying to kill them. Echoing the dehumanizing language of Texas’ lawsuit against Biden, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) objected to a bill to establish the right to travel out-of-state for abortion care by claiming the “right to live” is “deeper” than the right to travel. Whose right to live, Senator? Just say it.
Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana) called the bill an attempt to spur “fly-in abortions” and “abortion tourism,” as if being forced to scrape together massive amounts of funds and flee a home-state that’s reduced you to an incubator and will possibly try to imprison you is a fun little vacation. Because apparently an asshole like Daines needs this spelled out for him: People are seeking abortion care to escape abusive relationships, to care for children they already have, to not sink deeper into poverty, or simply because they don’t want to be pregnant and shouldn’t be forced to be.
Abortion bans have always amounted to state-sanctioned, gender-based violence, and anti-abortion state governments the ultimate abusers. Texas’ latest crusade takes this to a new extreme, all while U.S. Senators want pregnant people to be forced to stay in their states and perhaps even die there.
This is where we are as a country right now, and I’m deeply fucking afraid.