Listen to this article Hospitals That Refused Emergency Abortions Violated The Law, According To The Feds
A first-of-its-kind investigation by the federal government has found that two hospitals put the life of a pregnant woman in jeopardy and violated federal law by refusing to provide an emergency abortion to her during premature labor. The findings, obtained by The Associated Press, highlight the ongoing struggle of hospitals across the country to reconcile federal and state laws regarding abortion.
Since the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to an abortion last year, dozens of new state laws that ban or severely restrict abortion have been rolled out. However, federal law, which requires doctors to treat patients in emergency situations, supersedes those state laws.
Statement by Health and Human Services Secretary
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra emphasized the importance of protecting the lives and health of patients, and investigating and enforcing the law to the fullest extent of legal authority. He expressed relief that the patient in question had survived, but noted that she should never have had to go through such a terrifying ordeal.
The federal agency’s investigation centered on Freeman Health System in Joplin, Missouri, and University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City, Kansas, which both refused to provide an abortion to a Missouri woman experiencing premature labor at 17 weeks of pregnancy. Doctors at both hospitals informed the patient, Mylissa Farmer, that her fetus would not survive, that her amniotic fluid had emptied, and that she was at risk for serious infection or losing her uterus. However, they refused to terminate the pregnancy because a fetal heartbeat was still detectable. Ultimately, Farmer had to travel to an abortion clinic in Illinois.
National Women’s Law Center Complaints
The National Women’s Law Center filed complaints with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in Farmer’s case, leading to the federal agency’s investigation. Women across the country have reported being turned away from hospitals for abortions, despite doctors informing them that this puts them at further risk for infection or even death.
President Joe Biden’s administration has encouraged hospitals not to turn away patients in such situations, even when state law forbids abortions. After the Supreme Court’s ruling, the administration reminded hospitals that federal law requires them to offer an abortion when a pregnant woman is at risk for an emergency medical condition. The federal government can investigate hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid money for violations of the law.
The University of Kansas Health System insisted that their actions met the standard of care based on the facts known at the time and complied with all applicable laws. Freeman Health System did not respond to requests for comment.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued notices to the two hospitals, accusing them of violating the law and requesting that they rectify the issues that caused Farmer to be denied treatment.
CMS has not announced any fines or other penalties against the hospitals, but federal Medicare investigators will follow up with them before closing the case.
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