WASHINGTON — The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced several actions Friday aimed at protecting reproductive rights in Texas following passage of a bill that outlaws all abortions in the state after 6 weeks’ gestation.
“Every American deserves access to health care no matter where they live – including access to safe and legal abortions,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a press release. “HHS is taking actions to support and protect both patients and providers from this dangerous attack on Texans’ health care. Today we are making clear that doctors and hospitals have an obligation under federal law to make medical decisions regarding when it’s appropriate to treat their patients. And we are telling doctors and others involved in the provision of abortion care that we have your back.”
The law known as Senate Bill (S.B.) 8, which became effective on Sept. 1, has no exceptions for rape or incest but does include an exception for medical emergencies. The law also allows private citizens to sue healthcare workers, family members, or friends who help a patient get an illegal abortion, with the possibility of receiving a statutory award of at least $10,000 if the suit is successful.
When the law took effect, the White House issued a statement calling it “extreme” and adding that it “blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v. Wade and upheld as precedent for nearly half a century. The Texas law will significantly impair women’s access to the health care they need, particularly for communities of color and individuals with low incomes.”