The Supreme Court May Soon Face Its First Major Post-Roe Abortion Case

by | Aug 26, 2022 | Politics

A federal judge in Idaho sided with the Biden administration on Wednesday when he ruled that doctors who perform abortions in medical emergencies cannot be charged under Idaho’s abortion ban. A day earlier, a federal judge in Texas reached the opposite conclusion, ruling that the state can ban abortions performed during medical emergencies.These conflicting district court decisions could end up provoking the Supreme Court to wade back into the abortion issue for the first time since its conservative supermajority overturned the 49-year old precedent of Roe v. Wade. If that happens, the court will either place some guardrails on the furious assault on abortion rights being waged by right-wing lawmakers nationwide, or give their efforts a bright-green light.AdvertisementThe Idaho and Texas cases come in response to an executive order issued by President Joe Biden following the court’s June 24 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which ended national protection for abortion rights.Biden’s order concerns the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which requires medical professionals at hospitals that accept Medicaid to act to protect patients having medical emergencies. His administration notified states that it interprets the law to cover abortion care.This means that doctors who perform an abortion to protect a patient having a medical emergency can’t be charged under a state’s abortion ban.The Department of Justice followed up this directive by filing a lawsuit against Idaho for its abortion ban’s conflict with EMTALA. While Idaho’s abortion ban does provide an exception to protect the life of the mother, the DOJ argued in its legal brief that EMTALA requires doctors to protect the health of a pregnant patient who is “in ‘serious jeopardy’ or risk[s] ‘serious impairment to bodily functions’ or ‘serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.’”Advertisement“It’s not about the bygone constitutional right to an abortion,” U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, wrote in the Idaho case. “This Court is not grappling with that larger, more profound question. Rather, the Court is called upon to address a far more modest issue — whether Idaho’s criminal abortion statute conflicts with a small but important corner of federal legislation. It does.”A district court judge in Idaho temporarily suspended the state’s ban on abortions for patients facing medical emergencies.Sarah A. Miller/Idaho Statesman/Tribune News Service via Getty ImagesThe decision will not stop Idaho’s abortion ban from going into effect. Rather, it prohibits the state from charging doctors who perform an abortion as part of a medical emergency under EMTALA unless it can be proven unnecessary.Things have played out differently in Texas, however. There, state Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, sued to challenge the executive order’s application to his state’s ban. The Lone Star State has one of the strictest abortion bans in the entire co …

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