Merrick Garland & DOJ Suing Over Idaho Abortion Law That Denies Women Emergency Treatment

The Attorney General cited the Emergency Medical Treatment And Labor Act in a new lawsuit against Idaho's abortion ban.

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Image Credit: EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Attorney General Merrick Garland continued the fight for abortion rights in a new lawsuit that the Justice Department is filing against the State of Idaho to overrule a law preventing women seeking emergency treatment from being able to get an abortion. The AG announced the lawsuit, stating that the new law goes against the Emergency Medical Treatment And Labor Act (EMTALA), in a press conference on Tuesday, August 2. Garland said that the DOJ was seeking a “declaratory judgment” that the Gem State’s law violates the Constitution, as well as an injunction, blocking the restrictive abortion law from being enforced.

During the announcement, Garland explained the grounds that the lawsuit would block the Idaho law, which criminalizes anyone who performs an abortion, per The Associated Press. “The suit seeks to hold invalid the state’s criminal prohibition on providing abortion as applied to women who are suffering medical emergencies,” Garland said in the briefing. “Every hospital that receives Medicare funds must provide necessary stabilizing treatment to a patient who arrives at an emergency room, suffering from a medical condition that could put their life or health in serious jeopardy. In some circumstances, the medical treatment necessary to stabilize the patient’s condition is abortion.”

Garland continued and listed instances where an abortion may be necessary to save the mother’s life or stabilize their condition, such as a septic infection or hemorrhage. The AG explained that the exceptions in Idaho’s law are not enough, and the consequences for medical providers aren’t fair. “Although the Idaho law provides an exception to prevent the death of a pregnant woman, it includes no exception for cases in which the abortion is necessary to prevent serious jeopardy to the woman’s health. Moreover, it would subject doctors to arrest and criminal prosecution, even if they performed an abortion to save a woman’s life. It would then place the burden on the doctors to prove that they are not criminally liable,” he said.

Before turning over the microphone to Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, Garland addressed the wider issue of nationwide reproductive freedom since Roe V. Wade was overturned. He vowed that the Justice Department would “use every tool at our disposal to ensure that pregnant women get the emergency medical treatment to which they are entitled under federal law.” He also said that they would continue to follow State abortion laws in wake of the Supreme Court decision.

Garland cited EMTALA as the act that the Idaho law violates. (EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Garland ensured that the Justice Department would seek to enforce EMTALA in wake of the ruling. “In the days since the Dobbs decision, there have been widespread reports of delays and denials of treatment to pregnant women experiencing medical emergencies. Today, the Justice Department’s message is clear. It does not matter what State a hospital subject to EMTALA operates in. If a patient comes into the emergency room with a medical emergency jeopardizing the patient’s life or health, the hospital must provide the treatment necessary to stabilize that patient. This includes abortion when that is the necessary treatment. Any state law that prevents a hospital from fulfilling its obligation under EMTALA violates federal law,” he said.

Following the ruling, the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood, Alexis McGill Johnson, told HollywoodLife, “Today’s new lawsuit brought by the Justice Department is a critical step in protecting Idahoans, demanding that Idaho politicians follow the law and allow pregnant patients to receive life-saving emergency medical care. Idaho’s extreme abortion ban could put people at risk of death from a range of life-threatening, pregnancy-related conditions. Federal law requires that they receive emergency medical assistance, which could include a life-saving abortion.””

Since the SCOTUS decision to overturn Roe V. Wade, so many people have spoken out against the decision, from politicians to celebrities, and many more have fundraised to support reproductive rights. Shortly after the ruling went into effect, President Joe Biden also criticized the decision, ensuring that the administration would work to ensure contraception and necessary medications were kept available. He also called for Americans to elect pro-choice politicians in the midterms. “We need to restore the protections of Roe as law of the land,” he said.

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