In continued fallout from the Dobbs decision, Xavier Becerra, the Secretary of Health and Human Services sent an e-mail to all health care providers (Providers) July 11, 2022. He reminded Providers that HHS enforces the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), legislation that protects emergency Providers’ clinical judgements & actions respecting pregnant patients. Key to this message is that the EMTALA preempts conflicting state laws or mandates, and protects Provider decisions on emergency pregnancy care, regardless of the state where care is given.
Becerra reminds Providers of their duty to provide stabilizing medical treatment to pregnant patients, and that such duty will be protected by federal legislation, regardless of a conflicting state or local mandate. This is a critical reminder for Providers on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe. HHS’ letter illustrates the various ways and means by which agencies and individuals are using existing regulations to fill the gaps in pregnancy care options left by the Dobbs decision.