Statement on ACEP Support of EMTALA & Physician Autonomy When Treating Pregnant Patients

In June 2022, the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn of Roe v. Wade allowed states to enact or enforce laws banning abortion. In response, the Department of Health and Human Services published guidance regarding a hospital’s obligations under the Emergency Medicine Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), outlining their duties to offer stabilizing care, including abortion when deemed medically necessary. At the time, ACEP and other medical societies joined amicus briefs supporting two cases defending physician autonomy and the emergency physicians’ obligations.

In June 2023, ACEP released a policy statement, Access to Reproductive Health Care in the Emergency Department, that outlined our support of equitable access to reproductive healthcare, procedures, medications and other interventions.

Today, as these cases and regulations continue to evolve, ACEP reasserts our unwavering support of EMTALA and the right of the emergency physician to provide the highest quality medical care to pregnant patients without fear of legal consequences. Often, emergency physicians must make decisions within minutes, while health, safety, and outcomes hang in the balance. In that small window of time, an emergency physician should act in the best interest of the patient, unhindered by concern for the criminalization of their care in the service of the patients.