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Texas sues Biden administration over abortion medication guidance

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argued that the Biden administration's guidance requiring pharmacies that receive federal funding to provide abortion medication violates the state's sovereignty.

AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday challenging the Department of Health and Human Services' guidance clarifying that pharmacies that receive federal assistance cannot restrict access to prescription abortion pills.

“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,” said Paxton in a statement announcing the filing of his 17-page complaint Tuesday.

Two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson, which ended the constitutional right to abortion, President Joe Biden issued an executive order protecting access to reproductive health services, directing the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure health care providers comply with anti-discrimination laws and allow women to receive "medically necessary care without delay."

In response, the Department warned pharmcies they would violate pregnancy and disability discrimination laws if they refused to provide abortion and emergency contraception pills.

“We are committed to ensuring that everyone can access health care, free of discrimination,” said Secretary Xavier Becerra in a July statement, issuing the department's guidance. “This includes access to prescription medications for reproductive health and other types of care.”

The guidance held that in withholding the medication, pharmacies would violate a provision in the Affordable Care Act, prohibiting discrimination based on a person’s race, color, national origin, age and disability. If they violate this guidance, pharmacies could face legal action under other federal anti-discrimination statutes including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Both statutes prohibit discrimination in programs that receive federal funding. 

Throughout the complaint, the attorney general referred to the guidance as, "the pharmacy mandate" and argued that none of the federal statutes cited address pregnancy discrimination. Furthermore, Paxton argued that the Affordable Care Act prohibits the preemption of state laws related to abortions.

Texas is just one of several red states that have outlawed all abortions, including in cases of rape or incest, and have set criminal penalties for anyone found to have provided or attempted to provide an abortion procedure. Violators face anywhere from two years to life behind bars and a fine of a minimum of $100,000. 

Paxton's complaint states that the Biden administration's actions hurt the state’s sovereign interest to enforce its laws banning abortion. 

“By requiring pharmacies that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds … to dispense abortifacients when the life of the mother is not in danger, the Pharmacy Mandate flouts Dobbs’s holding that States may regulate abortion and directly infringes on Texas’s sovereign and quasi-sovereign authority,” the complaint states.

Paxton is requesting that the court declare the administration’s actions unlawful and permanently enjoin it from attempting to enforce its guidance. The Biden administration did not immediately respond to the lawsuit.

This is Paxton's sixth lawsuit against the Biden administration this year.

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