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LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — A federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked the federal government from enforcing a legal interpretation that would require hospitals in the state to provide abortion services if the life of the mother is at risk.
Texas sued Department of Health and Human Services and Secretary Xavier Becerra last month, arguing that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which is a federal law, doesn’t require doctors to provide abortions if doing so would violate a state law.
In a ruling Tuesday, U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix temporarily blocked the government from enforcing the guidance, finding that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act “is silent as to abortion.”
“Since the statute is silent on the question, the Guidance cannot answer how doctors should weigh risks to both a mother and her unborn child,” the judge’s order said. “Nor can it, in doing so, create a conflict with state law where one does not exist. The Guidance was thus unauthorized.”
Judge strikes down federal guidance on abortion in Texas
Meanwhile, the United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates of any developed country, and Black women face disproportionate risks.
Black women account for just 11% of live births in Texas but 31% of maternal deaths, according to the Texas Department of State Health services.
The Department of Health and Human Services issued the guidance in July, weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that abortion is not a constitutional right.
The agency cited requirements on medical facilities in the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act to determine whether a person seeking treatment might be in labor or whether they face an emergency health situation — or one that could develop into an emergency — and to provide treatment.