After the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) overturned the Roe v. Wade decision in 2022, numerous Republican-controlled state legislatures implemented strict anti-abortion laws. Now, hospitals in those states are reportedly hesitant to treat pregnant patients out of fear of running afoul of those laws.

The Associated Press’ Amanda Seitz reported Friday that in several conservative states, pregnant individuals have had enormous difficulty getting emergency room care. Seitz listed one instance in which a pregnant woman in Texas miscarried in the lobby of an emergency room where she was seeking care, another patient in Florida whose fetus’ heart stopped beating the day after security turned her away and another case in North Carolina in which a woman gave birth in a vehicle after being denied an ultrasound (her baby eventually died).

George Washington University health professor Sara Rosenbaum told the AP that pregnant individuals have “become radioactive to emergency departments” in states with anti-abortion laws on the books.

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“They are so scared of a pregnant patient, that the emergency medicine staff won’t even look,” she said. “They just want these people gone.”

Seitz obtained records from a 2023 Freedom of Information Act request filed with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to learn more about investigations into hospitals that denied care to pregnant patients in 2022. Under the 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), any emergency room is required to at least provide an additional screening and stabilizing treatment to any patient in labor that requests one.

HHS can withhold Medicare funding from any hospital that violates the EMTALA, which is a significant source of funding for many hospitals. Additionally, under that law, any hospital emergency room that doesn’t have the resources to treat a patient has to legally transfer them to another hospital.

“No woman should be denied the care she needs,” stated Jennifer Klein, who is director of the Gender Policy Council for President Joe Biden’s White House.

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“All patients, including women who are experiencing pregnancy-related emergencies, should have access to emergency medical care required under the [EMTALA],” she added.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra told the AP that his agency planned to prioritize enforcement of the EMTALA, calling it the “nation’s bedrock law protecting Americans’ right to life- and health-saving emergency medical care.”

“And doctors, not politicians, should determine what constitutes emergency care,” he said.

Click here to read Seitz’ full report in the Associated Press.

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