Justice Department sues to block Idaho abortion law after Supreme Court rejects Rowe

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announces enforcement action against Russia during a press conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S. April 6, 2022.

Elisabeth Franz | Reuters

The U.S. Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit Tuesday seeking to block Idaho’s new, severely restrictive abortion law on the grounds that it violates a federal law that requires most hospitals to provide medically necessary treatment to patients who visit their emergency departments.

This lawsuit is the first Justice Department lawsuit against new state restrictions on abortion, enacted in the wake of Supreme Court ruling in June in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which stated that there was no federal constitutional right to abortion.

The ruling overturned the 49-year-old Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade — which established a nationwide right for people to terminate pregnancies — as well as the 1992 court decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, who supported Rowe.

The Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs case effectively gave individual states the power to determine the legality of abortion and restrictions on the procedure within their borders.

But it also sets the stage for the federal government to challenge states that enforce more restrictive abortion laws on the grounds that those laws conflict with federal rights or laws.

“The day the Rowe and Casey cases were overthrown, we promised that the Justice Department would work tirelessly to protect and advance reproductive freedom. That is what we are doing,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a press conference on Tuesday.

“And that’s what we will continue to do. We will use every means at our disposal to ensure that pregnant women receive emergency medical care to which they are entitled under federal law.”

The Justice Department lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Idaho, notes that the state “has adopted a near-absolute ban on abortion.” After the entry into force Aug. 25, under that law, performing an abortion would be considered a criminal offense “in all but extremely narrow circumstances,” the lawsuit says.

Garland said Idaho’s new ban is in conflict with the federal Emergency Medical and Labor Act, which requires hospitals that accept Medicare funds to provide patients in their emergency departments with the medical treatment needed to stabilize their condition before they are transferred or discharged. . The vast majority of hospitals accept Medicare, a federal health insurance program that primarily covers older Americans.

“In some cases, the treatment needed to stabilize a patient’s condition is an abortion,” Garland said.

“This can be the case, for example, when a woman experiences a miscarriage that threatens a septic infection or bleeding, or suffers from severe preeclampsia,” he said.

“When a hospital determines that an abortion is a treatment necessary to stabilize a patient’s emergency, federal law requires that treatment be provided.”

Garland noted that “although Idaho law provides an exception to prevent the death of a pregnant woman, it does not include an exception for cases where an abortion is necessary to prevent a serious danger to the woman’s health.”

And he said: “This will lead to the arrest and prosecution of doctors, even if they have an abortion to save a woman’s life.”

The DOJ lawsuit asks the judge to issue a declaratory ruling that the Idaho law violates the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution, and EMTLA preempts it.

The complaint also seeks an injunction preventing Idaho authorities from enforcing the law against health care providers who provide treatment required by the EMTLA.

Idahogov. Republican Brad Little criticized the lawsuit, which accused the president. Joe Bidendemocrat who followed by his condemnation of the decision of the Supreme Court, signing an order protective access to reproductive health services.

“Our country’s highest court brought the abortion issue back to the states for settlement – end of story” Little is said in the statement.

“The Justice Department’s intervention in Idaho’s Life Protection Act is yet another example of Biden going over the top as he continues to ignore issues that really should need his attention, such as crushing inflation and an open border with Mexico.”

“Here in Idaho, we are proud to lead the nation in protecting the lives of premature babies. I will continue to work with Attorney General Lawrence Wasden to strongly support state sovereignty and defend the laws of Idaho in the face of federal interference,” Little said.