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September 15, 2023
Health Law Weekly

Patients Denied Emergency Abortion Care File Complaints in Three States

  • September 15, 2023

Patients who alleged they were denied potentially life-saving emergency care because of near-total abortion bans are suing Idaho and Tennessee, the states where they reside, the Center for Reproductive Rights (Center) announced September 14.

The Center, which filed the complaints on behalf of patients and providers in those states, said the lawsuits seek to clarify the states’ “medical emergency” exception to their abortion bans.

The lawsuits follow a similar complaint that the Center initiated in March against Texas. In August, a Texas judge temporarily enjoined the state from enforcing its abortion bans against physicians who perform the procedure on patients experiencing emergent medical conditions that pose a risk to life or health, including loss of fertility, or in cases where the fetus was unlikely to survive after birth. However, the state’s immediate appeal to the Texas Supreme Court put the ruling on hold.

The Idaho lawsuit challenges the limited scope of the medical exceptions to the state’s two abortion bans, which permit abortion only to prevent death or in narrow medical circumstances. The lawsuit seeks “to clarify and expand the exceptions under the two bans to ensure physicians can provide abortion care to preserve a pregnant person’s health and for cases of fatal fetal diagnoses.”

The Tennessee complaint also challenges the limited scope of the “emergent medical condition” exception to the state’s near ban on abortion. “Such clarification would allow physicians to provide life-saving care without waiting for patients to be near death,” the complaint said.

In addition to the lawsuits, the Center also filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services against Oklahoma Children’s Hospital, alleging it denied medically indicated abortion care to a woman suffering a partial-molar pregnancy—a potential life-threatening complication—in violation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA).

“Pregnant people should not have to fear that they will be denied life-saving treatment from Oklahoma hospitals, nor should they be forced to wait until they are at death’s door before health care providers intervene,” the complaint says.

The complaint asks HHS to investigate and find the hospital violated EMTALA.