Department of Justice suing State of Idaho over abortion ban, claims it violates federal law

Justice Department Abortion
Posted at 12:45 PM, Aug 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-03 13:43:17-04

IDAHO — The United States Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the State of Idaho over the state's abortion ban, claiming it violates federal law that requires doctors to provide necessary care which could include abortion.

The lawsuit claims the law violates the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), which states a person with an emergency medical condition seeking treatment at an emergency department that accepts Medicare funds must receive stabilizing treatment at the hospital. The lawsuit states conditions include not just risks to life but also anything that place a patients health in serious jeopardy or risks "serious impairment to bodily functions" or "serious dysfunction to any bodily organ or part."

Under EMTALA, stabilizing care may include an abortion. The State of Idaho's "near absolute ban on abortion" would make it a criminal offense for doctors to provide care they are required to provide under EMTALA, the lawsuit states. These conditions could include ectopic pregnancy, severe preeclampsia, or a pregnancy complication threatening septic infection or hemorrhage.

The Associated Press reports it is the first major action the Department of Justice is taking to challenge a state trigger law since the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

In a press conference Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the filing of the lawsuit.

Related: Idaho GOP rejects abortion exception to save mother's life

"When a hospital determines an abortion is the medical treatment necessary to stabilize a patients emergency medical condition, it is required by federal law to provide that treatment," Garland said at a press conference Tuesday. "As detailed in our complaint, Idaho's law would make it a criminal offense for doctors to provide the emergency medical treatment that federal law requires."

Garland noted while although the law does include exceptions to prevent the death of a pregnant woman, it "includes no exception for cases in which the abortion is necessary to prevent serious jeopardy to the woman's health."

The lawsuit states the U.S. is seeking a "declaratory judgment that Idaho's law is invalid under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution" due to its conflict with EMTALA.

Related: Planned Parenthood, doctor file another lawsuit against Idaho's 6-week abortion ban

The lawsuit challenges Idaho's 2020 abortion ban that was triggered when the Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe v. Wade. Under the 2020 abortion ban. The 2020 law bans abortions with exceptions for rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother.

Gov. Brad Little called the lawsuit "another example of Biden overreaching" in a statement released Tuesday.

Read Little's full statement here:

“Our nation’s highest court returned the issue of abortion to the states to regulate – end of story. The U.S. Justice Department’s interference with Idaho’s pro-life law is another example of Biden overreaching yet again while he continues to ignore issues that really should demand his attention – like crushing inflation and the open border with Mexico.

“Here in Idaho, we are proud that we have led the country in protecting preborn lives. I will continue to work with Attorney General Lawrence Wasden to vigorously uphold state sovereignty and defend Idaho’s laws in the face of federal meddling,”

Idaho's three abortion laws set for hearings in Idaho Supreme Court

The regional branch of Planned Parenthood filed lawsuits challenging all three of Idaho's recent abortion ban laws. The 2020 law as well as the "fetal heartbeat" law signed in 2021 and the "Texas-style" abortion ban signed by Gov. Brad Little in 2022 will all be in the Idaho Supreme Court August 3.

Related: Roe v. Wade overturn: How does it impact Idaho's Supreme Court abortion case?

Currently, the 2020 trigger law is set to take effect August 25 after the Supreme Court of the United States issued its official ruling July 26, triggering the 30-day enforcement countdown.

"We don’t have to guess what these abortion bans would mean for Idahoans – we’ve already seen the consequences in states across the nation. Patients are being denied access to basic health care," Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai’i, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, said in a statement. "Physicians are being forced to choose between compromising their Hippocratic oath or risking criminalization. We cannot let this become the future in Idaho. Our state constitution is meant to protect us from government intrusion in our private, personal decisions, and we will keep fighting for our bodily freedom until the end."

Read the full DOJ lawsuit here: