The Supreme Court on Friday temporarily allowed provisions of Idaho’s near-total abortion ban that could penalize doctors who perform the procedure in medical emergencies to take effect.
In an unsigned order Friday, the court granted a request by the state to overrule an injunction issued by a federal appeals court that prevented the state from prosecuting physicians who perform abortions in emergency, but not necessarily life-threatening, circumstances.
The court said it will hear oral arguments on the issue in April, with a decision expected in June. The provisions of the ban will be enforced until then.
Idaho’s Defense of Life Act is a “trigger law” that took effect after the Supreme Court ended the constitutional right to an abortion. It bans abortion in nearly all circumstances, but there is an exception to prevent the mother’s death.
The Biden administration sued, arguing the ban violated the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), which they said protects providers who perform lifesaving or health-saving abortion services in emergency situations.
EMTALA has been on the books for more than 30 years as a way to prevent “dumping” of emergency patients who couldn’t pay for care. Under the law, hospitals must provide stabilizing care to emergency room patients, regardless of their ability to pay.
The Biden administration invoked EMTALA in the wake of the 2022 Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade and ended constitutional protections for abortion. The administration said state laws or mandates that employ a more restrictive definition of an emergency medical condition are preempted by the federal statute.
A district court initially ruled in favor of the administration and blocked the law. The state appealed, and a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit lifted the injunction. But the full 9th Circuit later reinstated it, blocking the state from enforcing the law, and prompting the state officials to turn to the Supreme Court.
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