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Catholic Medical Association Counters Health and Human Services Directive on Emergency Abortions

A doctor holds a stethoscope in this illustration photo. (CNS photo/Regis Duvignau, Reuters)

Tablet Staff

PROSPECT HEIGHTS —  In response to the Biden Administration’s latest federal health care directive that allows providers to perform abortions in emergency situations, the national Catholic Medical Association (CMA) stated its members are “dedicated to providing the highest standard of care to both the mother and her unborn child without directly compromising either one in the process.”

“Treating a pathology of the mother does not require a direct attack on the unborn child,” said Dr. Marie Hilliard, CMA’s Ethics Committee co-chair. “In fact, these diagnostic and procedural codes, used for reimbursement even for federal funding, are distinct from coding that constitutes a direct abortion.”

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra informed health care providers on July 11 that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) will “protect” their judgment on what actions they take to “provide stabilizing medical treatment to pregnant patients, regardless of the restrictions in the state” where they practice.

Xavier Becerra, President Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services, testifies during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington Feb. 23, 2021. (Photo: CNS/Sarah Silbiger, Pool via Reuters)

“Catholic health care agencies and providers are committed to the same goals intended by EMTALA,” Hilliard said. “In fact, by the consistently high quality of care it is known to provide, Catholic health care has demonstrated that both can be beautifully served.”

EMTALA was enacted in 1986 to ensure that anyone who enters an emergency room is treated and stabilized regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.

HHS included stabilizing treatment as one that includes medical and/or surgical interventions such as abortion, removal of one or both Fallopian tubes. It stated that treating physicians “must provide that treatment” regardless of state laws or mandates that apply to such procedures.

Becerra said that if a physician believes that a pregnant patient at an emergency department is “experiencing an emergency medical condition as defined by EMTALA, and that abortion is the stabilizing treatment necessary to resolve that condition, the physician must provide that treatment.”

But Hilliard said abortion is not necessary and that enacting those directives is not only inconsistent with the U.S. Catholic bishop’s directives, but also causes stress to Catholic health care facilities.

CMA’s members include board certified obstetricians, gynecologists, pediatricians, neonatologists and other health care providers in various practice specialties and stages of medical training.

“Catholic health care agencies and providers have managed these same health crises of mother and baby…over the decades,” Hilliard said, “while respecting the health and dignity of both.”