HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra Announces Actions to Protect Patients and Providers in Response to Texas SB 8
Today, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra announced new resources and actions to protect reproductive health care for Texans, in response to President Joe Biden’s directive. Following the passage of SB 8, President Biden launched a whole-of-government response and asked the HHS to explore options to strengthen access to safe and legal abortions in Texas. Secretary Becerra announces the actions the HHS will take, including financial support for clinics and resources that outline protections for healthcare workers and strengthening legal protections for people who are pregnant or have pregnancy loss in Texas.
“Every American deserves access to health care, no matter where they live, including access to safe and legal abortions,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “For decades, both in Congress and as Attorney General of California, I have supported women in the fight for reproductive justice and access to care as part of Roe vs. Wade. Now, in response to President Biden’s directive, the HHS is taking action to support and protect both patients and providers from this dangerous attack on Texan healthcare. Today, we’re making it clear that physicians and hospitals have a duty under federal law to make medical decisions about when to treat their patients. And we tell doctors and others involved in providing abortion care that we support you. “
Secretary Becerra announces a three-pronged HHS department-wide response focused on protecting Texas patients and healthcare providers, including:
- Title X Support grants for suppliers. Last week, Title X beneficiaries received nearly $ 19 million to support the expansion of family planning services. The HHS Office for Population Affairs (OPA) to provide additional funding to Every Body Texas, a current Title X family planning beneficiary, to meet anticipated increased client needs for emergency contraception and services family planning. Second, the OPA plans to provide up to $ 10 million in grants to expand access to emergency contraceptive and family planning services to any applicant eligible for Title X services who can demonstrate a need resulting from ‘an influx of customers as a result of SB 8 as well as states. across the country with increased needs overall. This funding opportunity, titled: Funding to Meet Urgent Family Planning Service Needs, can be found here.
- Application of non-discrimination against health care providers. The HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces the Church Amendments, which protect healthcare workers from employment discrimination that opposes abortion, sterilization, and biomedical or behavioral research activities because of their religious beliefs or their moral convictions. This law also protects health workers from discrimination in their employment because they have performed or assisted in a legal abortion. Today’s guidelines outline protections that prohibit recipients of grants, loans, contracts, or loan guarantees under the Public Health Services Act from discriminating in employment, promotion, or termination employment of any doctor or other health care personnel because the person performed or assisted in the performance of an abortion. The OCR can receive complaints from people who believe they have been discriminated against in violation of Church Amendments. To file a complaint, visit: https://ocrportal.hhs.gov/ocr/smartscreen/main.jsf
- Application of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Work Act (EMTALA) and the conditions for participation in health insurance. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) issued a memorandum to providers strengthening EMTALA and legal obligations specific to pregnant patients or patients experiencing pregnancy loss. EMTALA status requires that all patients receive appropriate medical screening, stabilizing treatment, and referral, if necessary, regardless of laws or state mandates that apply to specific procedures. The professional and legal obligation of a physician to provide medical treatment to a patient presenting to the emergency department and suffering from a medical emergency prevails over any directly contradictory law or state mandate which might seek to prevent such treatment. . Civil monetary penalties may be imposed against hospitals or individual physicians for EMTALA violations. Additionally, physicians may also be excluded from Medicare and Medicaid programs.
For a fact sheet on HHS efforts to support patients and reproductive rights in Texas, visit: https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/fact-sheet-hhs-actions-to- support-health-care-providers-and-patients-in-texas.pdf