Understanding the Constitutional law behind the Department of Justice's lawsuit against Idaho

Posted at 4:48 PM, Aug 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-03 18:50:49-04

Who will win the lawsuit filed by the DOJ against Idaho's abortion laws?

The United States Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the State of Idaho Tuesday 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."

Related: Idaho Supreme Court to decide how to proceed with Idaho abortion bans

Idaho News 6 asked University of Idaho constitutional law expert Shaakirrah Sanders what she thinks.

Sanders said the U.S. Constitution is clear that federal law takes precedence.

"Well, Article Six of the U.S. Constitution makes clear that not only the federal constitution reigns supreme but all federal laws reign supreme over state laws and state courts," Sanders said.

But, she said if the feds do end up winning their case, it won't stop Idaho from coming up with something else.

"Just because this one law could be pre-empted by federal statutes does not mean Idaho is barred from passing other statutes that would adequately protect the health of a pregnant person," said Sanders. "I suspect that there are and I would suspect that we see other cases filed by the department of justice around the country over the next several months."

Sanders said she also expects to see other cases filed by the Department of Justice across the country in the coming months.