Appeals Court Says Texas Can Ban Emergency Abortions Despite Federal Guidelines

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that Texas can ban emergency abortions, even though the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says a federal regulation takes precedence over state laws that prohibit the procedure.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court decision that ruled in favor of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. The appeal was heard by Judge Leslie Southwick, appointed by President George W. Bush, and Kurt Engelhardt and Cory Wilson, who were chosen by Trump.

“An abortion saved my life,” reads the sign of one of the protesters in favor of reproductive rights at the Texas Capitol on May 14, 2022.Montinique Monroe/Getty Images

“The Texas plaintiffs’ argument that medical treatment is historically subject to the authority of the states, which should not be superseded unless that was the clear and manifest purpose of Congress, is compelling,” Engelhardt wrote.

Paxton, who is a Republican, had filed suit to block a directive from the Department of Health and Human Services Act of 2022, which states that health care providers must offer abortions in emergency situations.

The Biden Administration had appealed a ruling by US District Judge James Wesley Hendrix, who prohibited the federal agency from applying that regulation in Texas and against two groups of doctors opposed to abortion.

Spokespeople for the Justice Department and the Texas attorney general did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the ruling Tuesday night.