By Raymond Wolfe
The Biden administration took new steps last week to undercut Texas’ life-saving heartbeat law and to prop up abortion businesses amid a near-total abortion ban in the state.
Biden health secretary Xavier Becerra on Friday announced a “three-pronged Department-wide response” to the Texas Heartbeat Act, or SB 8, by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), following Joe Biden’s call for a “whole-of-government effort” against the law.
Becerra said that the HHS will direct additional funding to abortion centers in Texas, including through Every Body Texas, a nonprofit that administers federal “family planning” funds across the state. The funding is intended to respond to an “anticipated increase” in demand for “emergency contraception” abortifacient drugs, according to the HHS.
The department also unveiled plans to award up to $10 million in grants to abortion facilities that “can demonstrate a need resulting from an influx of clients as a result of SB 8,” as well as to centers in other states “with increased needs overall.”
The HHS announcement comes after Joe Biden directed the agency and the Department of Justice (DOJ) “to see what steps the Federal Government can take” to obstruct SB 8. A Supreme Court decision allowed the act to come into effect at the beginning of September.
The Texas Heartbeat Act, the strictest pro-life law to take effect since Roe v. Wade, bans abortion once a baby’s heartbeat can be detected, around six weeks into pregnancy. The unprecedented law delegates enforcement to private citizens, empowering individuals to sue anyone, besides the mother, involved in an abortion of a baby with a detectable heartbeat. Lawsuits can result in rewards of up to $10,000.
On Friday, the HHS also released guidance stating that the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will enforce federal laws that restrict recipients of public health funding from firing or otherwise “discriminating” against medical personnel involved in “lawful abortions.” The OCR guidance appears to define “lawful abortions” as all elective abortions before viability.
As former OCR director Roger Severino has noted, the OCR repeatedly found Becerra in violation of federal non-discrimination protections during his tenure as attorney general of California, including for trying to force an order of Catholic nuns to buy abortion coverage.
The HHS has vacated the violations findings against Becerra under his leadership, however, and has restored $200 million in Medicaid funds to California previously disallowed due violations of conscience protections.
The third measure announced as part of the HHS response to SB 8 is a memo issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) suggesting that physicians could be excluded from Medicare and Medicaid for denying an abortion to a woman with an “emergency medical condition.”
The memo cited the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), which “requires that all patients receive an appropriate medical screening, stabilizing treatment, and transfer, if necessary, irrespective of any state laws or mandates that apply to specific procedures,” the CMS said.
“Stabilizing treatment could include” the surgical abortion procedure dilation and curettage, the memo argued. “Civil monetary penalties may be imposed against hospitals or individual physicians for EMTALA violations.”
The new attempts by the HHS to sabotage the Texas Heartbeat Act follow a lawsuit against the legislation filed by the Justice Department a week earlier. An Obama-appointed federal judge on Wednesday denied an emergency request by the Biden DOJ to block SB 8, though a hearing is scheduled for October 1.
The DOJ has been “urgently” considering other means to challenge SB 8 as well, Attorney General Merrick Garland has said.
“There are no lengths the Biden administration won’t go to in their drive to prop up the abortion industry and impose abortion on demand up to birth nationwide, on a public that resoundingly rejects their agenda,” president Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List said Friday. “Texas is not California, no matter how hard Xavier Becerra tries to export his pro-abortion legacy.”
Texas’s heartbeat law has resulted in cancelled abortions across the Lone Star State and has reportedly shut down some Planned Parenthood centers entirely. According to the SBA List, the policy is estimated to save 130 babies per day and to have saved more than 2,000 lives in total so far.
Recent polling by Rasmussen has found that a plurality of likely voters support the heartbeat act, with 46 percent in favor compared with 43 percent opposed. Other polls have found that most Americans back strict abortion regulations after six weeks of pregnancy.