The Biden administration on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Idaho’s so-called trigger law banning nearly all abortions beginning later this month.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, who announced the lawsuit during a news conference, said Idaho’s law would violate the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act.
The federal law requires hospitals that receive Medicare funds to provide emergency treatment to stabilize a patient before they can be transferred or discharged.
This includes any treatment needed to ensure the pregnant person’s health is not put in serious jeopardy, that their bodily functions are not seriously impaired, or that they don’t suffer serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.
It’s the Justice Department’s first legal challenge of a state abortion law since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling, which overturned Roe vs. Wade, in June.
“In the days since the Dobbs decision, there have been widespread reports of delays or denials to pregnant women experiencing medical emergencies,” Garland said. “We will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that pregnant women get the medical care that they are entitled to.”
Idaho’s abortion law, which is set to go into effect Aug. 25, was passed in 2020. Under the law, providers who perform abortions face a five-year prison sentence.
Exceptions on the ban exist in cases of rape or incest if they’re reported to law enforcement, or to save the life of the pregnant person.
“Federal law is clear: Patients have the right to stabilizing hospital emergency room care no matter where they live,” said Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Women should not have to be near death to get care.”
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden took issue with the lawsuit, accusing the Biden administration of failing to discuss the interplay between Idaho’s abortion law and the EMTALA before filing a “politically motivated lawsuit.”
“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,” Wasden said.
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