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The Supreme Court will allow emergency abortion access in Idaho, for now, despite the state’s near-total ban on the procedure.

On Thursday, the Court dismissed the case without addressing some of the lawsuit’s core issues and instead sent the case back to lower courts for more proceedings. By doing this, the Supreme Court reinstated a federal district court’s decision that a federal law mandating emergency rooms to provide stabilizing care to all patients supersedes Idaho’s abortion ban when a woman’s health is at risk.

Some background:
In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to strike down the national right to abortion, Idaho enacted one of the nation’s strictest abortion bans. The state prohibits abortion from conception, even in cases where it is needed to protect a pregnant woman’s physical health, allowing it only when “necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman.” The Justice Department sued Idaho over the law, arguing that the state’s abortion ban violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), a federal law requiring many hospitals to provide stabilizing care to emergency room patients.

According to the Department of Justice, “The Idaho law would make it a criminal offense for doctors to comply with EMTALA’s requirement to provide stabilizing treatment, even where a doctor determines that abortion is the medical treatment necessary to prevent a patient from suffering severe health risks. Beyond care necessary to prevent death, the law provides no defense whatsoever when the health of the pregnant patient is at stake.”

Drupal Thewell Lenox Emergency Room Day In The Life Jmm242

Justice Elena Kagan noted that while federal law mandates hospitals to offer abortion when necessary to prevent severe health consequences, Idaho law prohibits such emergency care unless it is to prevent death. “By their terms, the two laws differ,” Kagan wrote.

Justice Samuel Alito, however, criticized the Court’s decision to dismiss the case, arguing that the government’s preemption argument is “plainly unsound.” He added, “Apparently, the Court has simply lost the will to decide the easy but emotional and highly politicized question that the case presents. That is regrettable.”

Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador said that despite the Court’s ruling, he would “remain committed to protect unborn life and ensure women in Idaho receive necessary medical care, and I will continue my outreach to doctors and hospitals across Idaho to ensure that they understand what our law requires. We look forward to ending this administration’s relentless overreach into Idahoans’ right to protect and defend life.”


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