On November 8, 2022, NWLC filed a complaint with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on behalf of Mylissa Farmer pursuant to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (“EMTALA”), a federal law that ensures patients receive the emergency medical care they need. On August 2–4, 2022, Ms. Farmer was denied emergency medical treatment by two hospitals—Freeman Hospital West in Joplin, MO, and the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, KS—related to complications with her pregnancy. Although doctors at both hospitals concluded that Ms. Farmer’s pregnancy was no longer viable and she was at risk of a serious infection, hemorrhaging, or death, legal departments at both hospitals overrode the doctors’ medical judgment and denied the emergency abortion care she needed. These decisions directly contravened EMTALA, which requires hospitals to provide emergency care irrespective of state law, including emergency abortion care that a state might deem to be illegal.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, EMTALA’s protections are more important than ever before. States nationwide, including Missouri, have rushed to ban abortion with only vague or unduly narrow exceptions for medical emergencies.  As a result, individuals, like Ms. Farmer, are being denied emergency abortion care, with detriments to their health, lives, and futures. But hospitals must comply with their obligations under federal law. In our complaint, NWLC makes clear that it is critical that the federal government take swift and decisive action to investigate whether health care providers are acting in compliance with EMTALA and enforce this law when there are violations.