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Wednesday May 29, 2024

US Supreme Court split over Idaho’s abortion ban in emergencies

By Reuters
April 25, 2024
Liberal Justice Elena Kagan on Sept. 13, 2016. — Slate website
Liberal Justice Elena Kagan on Sept. 13, 2016. — Slate website 

WASHINGTON: U.S. Supreme Court justices, wading back into the battle over abortion access, appeared divided on Wednesday in a case pitting Idaho’s strict Republican-backed abortion ban against a federal law that ensures that patients can receive emergency care.

The justices heard arguments in an appeal by Idaho officials of a lower court’s ruling that found that the 1986 U.S. law at issue, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), supersedes the state’s near-total ban in the relatively rare circumstances when the two conflict.

President Joe Biden’s administration, which sued Idaho over the abortion law, has urged the justices to uphold that ruling.

U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, who argued on behalf of the administration, told the justices “the situation on the ground in Idaho is showing the devastating consequences” of the conflict between EMTALA and Idaho’s abortion ban.

“One hospital system in Idaho says that right now it’s having to transfer pregnant women in medical crisis out of the state about once every other week,” Prelogar said. “That’s untenable and EMTALA does not countenance it.”

The court’s three liberal justices posed sharp questions to Turner. Liberal Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson told Turner that it is plain on the face of the statute that EMTALA is about the provision of stabilizing care for people experiencing emergency medical conditions and that the law displaces the prerogatives of hospitals or states in this fairly narrow slice of the healthcare universe. Liberal Justice Elena Kagan told Turner, “We can just take off the table this idea that, you know, just because it’s a state and it’s healthcare that the federal government has nothing to say about it. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the court building.