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Attorney General Merrick Garland Delivers Remarks for the Reproductive Rights Taskforce


Washington, DC
United States

Remarks as Delivered

Thank you, President Biden. Thank you, Vice President Harris, for bringing us together today. Thank you, Jen. And thank you, Secretary Becerra, for highlighting the urgency of this crisis, and for your partnership.

In the five weeks since the Supreme Court overturned Roe and Casey, legislatures across the country have taken steps to impose bans and other restrictions on access to abortion, with devastating consequences for women’s health, their safety, and their civil rights.

And we know that the harms caused by these laws have been and will continue to be especially severe for people of color and for those of limited means.

Since the day that Dobbs was decided, the Justice Department has made clear that we will be relentless in our efforts to protect and advance reproductive freedom.

As we have said repeatedly, women who reside in states that have banned access to abortion must remain free to seek that care in states where it is legal.

Under fundamental First Amendment principles, people must also remain free to inform and counsel each other about the reproductive care that is available in other states.

States may not ban the abortion medication Mifepristone on disagreement with the FDA’s expert judgment about its efficacy and safety.

And federal agencies may continue to provide reproductive health services to the extent authorized by federal law.

Last week, I also said that the Department is vigilantly monitoring state laws and enforcement actions to ensure that states do not infringe on federal protections of reproductive rights.

And I said that when they do, we will consider every tool at our disposal, including filing affirmative cases, statements of interest, and intervening in private litigation.

Yesterday, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the State of Idaho to hold invalid that State’s criminal prohibition on providing abortions, as applied to women who are suffering medical emergencies.

As we explained in our complaint, Idaho’s near-total ban on abortion directly conflicts with the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA. That federal law requires hospitals receiving Medicare funds to provide necessary stabilizing treatment to people suffering from an emergency medical condition.

As I said when we announced this suit, it does not matter what state a hospital subject to EMTALA is located in.

If a patient comes into an emergency room with a medical emergency jeopardizing the patient's life or health, the hospital must provide the treatment necessary to stabilize that condition.

And this includes abortion when that is the necessary treatment.

Any state law that prevents a hospital from fulfilling its obligations under EMTALA violates federal law.

The Justice Department will also be filing a motion to dismiss the Texas lawsuit challenging HHS’s guidance under EMTALA. The law could not be clearer, and we are going to vigorously litigate this suit to ensure women get the emergency care to which they are entitled under federal law.

Led by Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, the Department’s Reproductive Rights Task Force will continue to build on these efforts to protect reproductive freedom.

Its work includes monitoring state laws that infringe on federal constitutional protections, evaluating appropriate actions in response to those laws—including filing lawsuits and statements of interest—and coordinating technical assistance to both Congress and the States on federal constitutional and statutory considerations.

Five weeks ago, I promised that the Justice Department would work tirelessly to protect reproductive freedom, and that we would not waver from our founding responsibility to protect the civil rights of all Americans.

That is what we have done, and that is what we will continue to do.

Thank you.

Updated August 3, 2022