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State of Texas v. Becerra

Description:  The state of Texas is challenging the Biden administration’s attempt to use federal law, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, to force emergency room doctors to perform abortions, even if doing so violates their conscience or religious beliefs.

A patient in a hospital
Tuesday, Jan 2, 2024

NEW ORLEANS – In a pivotal victory for women, children, and healthcare professionals, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled Tuesday that the Biden administration cannot illegally use federal law to force emergency room doctors to perform abortions.

ADF attorneys representing the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, alongside the state of Texas, asked the court to keep in place a lower court ruling halting the Biden administration from employing the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act to force doctors to provide elective abortions in emergency rooms. The appeals court unanimously agreed.

“Hospitals—especially emergency rooms—are tasked with preserving life. The 5th Circuit correctly ruled that the federal government has no business transforming them into abortion clinics,” said ADF Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Ryan Bangert, who argued before the court. “Doctors shouldn’t be forced to break the Hippocratic Oath, and they shouldn’t have to choose between violating their deeply held beliefs or facing stiff financial penalties and being barred from the Medicare program. Emergency room physicians can, and do, treat life-threatening conditions such as ectopic pregnancies. But elective abortion is not life-saving care—it ends the life of the unborn child—and the government has no authority to force doctors to perform these dangerous procedures. We are pleased that the courts are allowing emergency rooms to fulfill their primary function—saving lives.”

In its decision in State of Texas v. Becerra, the court held that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act does not require emergency room physicians to provide abortions. Instead, EMTALA prevents hospitals from refusing to treat patients who are unable to pay for emergency services—requiring hospitals to stabilize both pregnant women and unborn children in emergencies.

“EMTALA does not mandate any specific type of medical treatment, let alone abortion,” the court wrote. “We agree with the district court that EMTALA does not provide an unqualified right for the pregnant mother to abort her child especially when EMTALA imposes equal stabilization obligations.” The court thus rejected the Biden administration’s attempt to “expand the scope of EMTALA.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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ABOUT Ryan Bangert

Ryan Bangert serves as senior vice president for strategic initiatives and special counsel to the president at Alliance Defending Freedom. He oversees ADF's regulatory practice, government relations, and corporate engagement teams. He also advises executive leadership with strategic initiatives and appears as counsel for ADF clients. Before joining ADF, Bangert served as deputy for legal counsel and deputy first assistant attorney general in the office of the Texas attorney general. In those roles, he oversaw the state’s Special Litigation Unit, which handled critical litigation against the federal government, and oversaw multiple divisions within the office. Bangert also served as deputy for civil litigation for Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, overseeing the state’s civil litigation portfolio and over 200 attorneys and staff. Prior to his government service, Bangert was a litigation partner at Baker Botts L.L.P. He earned his B.A. from Oral Roberts University, and his J.D. from Southern Methodist University, where he graduated first in his class. He participated in the Blackstone Legal Fellowship program in 2002. Following law school, he clerked for Judge Patrick Higginbotham on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. Bangert is an active member of the Texas Bar and is admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and various federal trial courts and courts of appeal.