July 16, 2024
Two hospitals broke law by denying abortion
A health screening

A health screening

US federal health officials say two hospitals broke the law by denying an abortion to a woman experiencing a life-threatening emergency.

The hospitals, in Kansas and Missouri, are now being investigated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The investigation is the first of its kind to be launched since the Supreme Court invalidated the national right to an abortion last year.

Numerous states have issued regulations and bans on abortion since that ruling.

Following the Supreme Court ruling, the White House warned hospitals that doctors must provide abortions if the patient’s health is at risk – even in states that have banned abortion.

Hospitals that receive federal funding can be investigated for violating the law, known as the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA).

“Fortunately, this patient survived. But she should never have gone through the terrifying normal she experienced in the first place,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement seen by BBC News.

“We want her, and every patient out there like her, to know that we will do everything we can to protect their lives and health, and to investigate and enforce the law to the fullest extent of our legal authority, in accordance with orders from the courts.”

According to the National Women’s Law Center, which pushed for the investigation, patient Mylissa Farmer was denied care by Freeman Hospital West in Joplin, Missouri, and the University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City, Kansas.

In August, Ms Farmer was 18 weeks pregnant when she experienced pre-term premature rupture of membranes – putting her at risk of severe blood loss, sepsis or death.

She ultimately had to travel to an abortion clinic in Illinois after being denied treatment by the two hospitals.

“I am pleased with this decision, but pregnant people across the country continue to be denied care and face increased risk of complications or death, and it must stop,” Ms Farmer said in a statement on Monday.

“I was already dealing with unimaginable losses and the hospital made things much harder. I’m still struggling emotionally with what happened to me, but I am determined to keep fighting, because no one should have to go through this.”

Abortion is largely banned in Missouri, but remains legal in Kansas up to 22 weeks.

Around the US, doctors and patients have reported confusion about the patchwork of abortion laws that exist in different states.

On Monday, Secretary Becerra sent a letter to hospitals and doctors’ associations warning them to continue to follow federal law.

“While many state laws have recently changed, it’s important to know that the federal EMTALA requirements have not changed, and continue to require that health care professionals offer treatment, including abortion care, that the provider reasonably determines is necessary to stabilize the patient’s medical emergency condition,” he wrote.