Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Tuesday, challenging guidance directed at pharmacies to fill prescriptions for abortion-inducing medication.
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The lawsuit seeks to overturn the guidance issued last summer to retail pharmacies that accept Medicaid or Medicare, in an effort by HHS to ensure equitable provision of prescription medications, including abortion-inducing drugs, mandated under federal law.
“The guidance makes clear that as recipients of federal financial assistance, including Medicare and Medicaid payments, pharmacies are prohibited under law from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability in their programs and activities,” HHS said in a press release when the guidance was issued.
“This includes supplying prescribed medications; making determinations regarding the suitability of prescribed medications for a patient; and advising a patient about prescribed medications and how to take them. The action is the latest step in the HHS’ response to protect reproductive health care.”
The lawsuit accuses the Biden administration of attempting to “nullify” Dobbs, the US Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade.
“The Biden administration has repeatedly attempted to impose through executive fiat a federal right to abortion that does not exist,” the filing read. “In the administration’s war against Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, defendants have issued a ‘guidance’ document and associated press release that, if allowed to remain effective, require pharmacies to dispense abortion-inducing drugs in violation of state law (collectively, the ‘Pharmacy Mandate’)—purportedly as a condition of receiving Medicare and Medicaid funds. But whether the Biden administration likes it or not, the question of abortion is up to the people’s elected representatives—not unelected bureaucrats.”
HHS issued the guidance as reports of people in states with abortion bans struggling to access vital medications increased.
“The Biden administration knows that it has no legal authority to institute this radical abortion agenda, so now it’s trying to intimidate every pharmacy in America by threatening to withhold federal funds,” Paxton said in a statement following the filing. “It’s not going to work.”
In response to Paxton’s suit, Planned Parenthood of Texas said it was a politically motivated “attack” on healthcare.
“Ken Paxton continues his relentless assault on people’s health and rights through the federal courts in a new lawsuit filed yesterday against the Biden administration,” said Drucilla Tigner, deputy director of strategic campaigns and partnerships at Planned Parenthood Texas Votes. “This is far from the first time Paxton has weaponized the legal system to achieve his unpopular political agenda: In another case, he is trying to shut down Planned Parenthood health centers in Texas through a meritless lawsuit that seeks nearly $2 billion in punitive damages.
Paxton isn’t satisfied with Texas’s three abortion bans—and, according to him, HHS’s reminder that pharmacies must comply with federal anti-discrimination law constitutes a ‘radical abortion agenda.’ What’s really radical is a state with the nation’s worst uninsured rates and abysmal maternal and infant health outcomes ruthlessly attacking people’s access to essential healthcare.”
Meanwhile, a decision in another federal lawsuit filed in Texas last November could reverse the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, the first in a two-step abortion pill regimen that accounts for more than half of all abortions nationwide.
The Trump-appointed magistrate in that case, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, could rule in favor of far-right anti-abortion groups in Texas and reverse the longstanding approval of the drug, which would bar access to medication abortion across the US. Kacsmaryk could issue his ruling as early as February.