U.S. Supreme Court opens Idaho abortion prosecution

The U.S. Supreme Court today lifted a lower court’s stay on the State of Idaho’s right to prosecute cases under the state’s strict new abortion laws enacted in the wake of its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June, 2022, allowing the state to charge and prosecute anyone who performs or assists in providing an abortion, even in the case of emergency in which the mother’s life is in peril.

““We are very pleased and encouraged by the Supreme Court’s decision today. The federal government has been wrong from day one,” Idaho Attorney General Raul Labrador said. “Federal law does not preempt Idaho’s Defense of Life Act. In fact, EMTALA and Idaho’s law share the same goal: to save the lives of all women and their unborn children. Today, the Supreme Court’s decision is a big step in stopping the administration’s lawless overreach. The people of Idaho have spoken with clarity on the issue of life.”

“Idaho’s abortion ban, passed by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed by Governor Brad Little, endangers the lives of pregnant Idahoans and undermines the duty hospitals have to treat and stabilize sick patients,” Idaho Democratic Party Chair Lauren Necochea said. “Simply preserving the patient’s health is considered a criminal act. It is unconscionable that the U.S. Supreme Court is now allowing Idaho to block abortion care even in medical emergencies. Idaho Democrats will continue to fight for the reproductive rights and freedoms of all Idahoans for as long as it takes. We stand with the majority of Idahoans who believe people should have access to all of the reproductive health care options available, including abortion.”

The U.S. Justice Department sued Idaho, contending that’s its abortion laws violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), a federal law requiring health care providers receiving Medicare funding to provide necessary stabilizing treatment, including emergency abortion, to mothers whose health is at risk.

Idaho U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill agreed, issuing a ban on enforcing the state’s anti abortion laws while legal proceedings continued on the merits of the case itself.

Labrador argued that EMTALA says nothing about abortion, that the administration was misusing the act to “impose a federal abortion mandate” on states.

Today’s action took the case out of the appeals court and opened the way for prosecution under the law, among the nation’s most strict. Under it, providing or assisting in an abortion is a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. The law makes no allowance for instances in which the mother’s life is at risk.

The Supreme Court will take up the case in April.

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