December 2, 2023

Washington – The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit challenging an Idaho law that bans nearly all abortions in the state, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Tuesday, marking the first legal battle mounted by the Biden administration since the Supreme Court. abolished the constitutional right in an abortion in June.

In a press conference announcing the new treatmentGarland said Idaho’s law, which was enacted in 2020 and takes effect Aug. 25, violates the Constitution and is preempted by federal law because it conflicts with the Emergency Medical Care and Labor Act (EMTALA).

The Justice Department is asking a federal district court in Idaho to strike down the so-called trigger law and prevent the state from enforcing it against medical providers.

“In the days following the Dobbs decision, there have been widespread reports of delays and denials of treatment to pregnant women experiencing medical emergencies. Today, the Justice Department’s message is clear: It does not matter in what state a hospital subject to EMTALA operates. If a patient comes to the emergency room with a medical emergency that endangers the patient’s life or health, the hospital must provide the necessary treatment to stabilize that patient,” Garland said. “This includes abortion when she it is the necessary treatment.”

Garland said any state law that prevents a hospital from meeting its obligations under EMTALA violates federal law, and the Idaho statute “appears on its face” to be in direct conflict with it. The ban “will threaten the health of women who come to the emergency room in a truly dire medical condition,” he added.

AG Garland announces lawsuit to protect access to reproductive health care
Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during a news conference at the US Department of Justice on August 2, 2022 in Washington, DC

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Idaho Gov. Brad Little called the Justice Department’s lawsuit “federal interference” and defended the state law.

“Our nation’s highest court has returned the issue of abortion to the states to regulate — end of story,” he said in a statement. “The US Justice Department’s intervention in Idaho’s pro-life law is yet another example of Biden overreaching yet again while continuing to ignore issues that really need his attention — like crash inflation and open borders.” with Mexico”.

Idaho law makes it a felony to perform an abortion in most cases, and the Justice Department argues in its lawsuit that the measure makes it a criminal offense for doctors to comply with EMTALA, which requires health care providers who receive Medicare funds to provide the necessary stabilization treatment in a mother whose health is at risk and must undergo an emergency abortion.

Circumstances that may require a doctor to perform an abortion to stabilize a pregnant mother include an ectopic pregnancy, severe preeclampsia or a pregnancy complication that threatens septic infection or bleeding, the Biden administration said.

“Idaho’s law would make it a criminal offense for doctors to provide the emergency medical care that federal law requires,” Garland said. “Although the Idaho law provides an exception to prevent the death of pregnant women, it does not include any exception for cases in which an abortion is necessary to prevent a serious risk to the women’s health.”

Lawrence Washden, Idaho’s attorney general, blamed the department for failing to discuss the matter with Idaho officials and instead choosing to file what he called a “politically motivated lawsuit.” Wasden said in a statement that an EMTALA provision does not preempt state law except in specific circumstances.

“Instead of complying with the requirements of this provision and reconciling Idaho’s law with EMTALA or even attempting to engage Idaho in a meaningful dialogue on the issue, the federal government has chosen to waste taxpayer dollars on an unnecessary lawsuit,” Washden said.

The lawsuit against the state of Idaho is the first brought by the Justice Department since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in late June, returning abortion policy to elected officials and clearing the way for state lawmakers to impose tighter restrictions or direct abortion bans.

In response to the Supreme Court decision, President Biden signed an executive order last month that led his administration to protect reproductive rights.

At the behest of Mr. Biden, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra issued new guidance to hospitals notifying them that they must perform emergency abortions if the mother’s life is in danger, as EMTALA’s requirements preempt state abortion bans.

The Justice Department and the White House also convened for the first time on Friday a meeting of private law firms, bar associations, law professors and public interest groups to push for legal representation to help protect access to reproductive health services.

Deputy Attorney General Vanita Gupta, who is leading the Justice Department’s response to the Supreme Court’s ruling, said Tuesday that Idaho’s controversial law would “freeze” providers’ willingness to perform medically necessary abortions and warned that ” hypothetically criminalizes all abortions.”

The statute places the burden, Gupta explained, on doctors to prove why the abortion procedure is necessary.

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