WASHINGTON – The Biden administration sued Idaho on Tuesday over a strict state abortion law set to take effect this month that the Justice Department said would prevent emergency room doctors from performing abortions necessary for the health of women giving birth. face stabilizing medical emergencies.
The lawannounced by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, the first Biden administration to file to protect access to abortion since Supreme Court ruling in late June that ended the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.
Since then, Mr. Garland noted at a news conference Tuesday, “there have been widespread reports of delays and denials of treatment for pregnant women who have experienced emergencies.” The lawsuit argues that a federal law, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, prevents states from imposing restrictions that would prevent emergency room doctors from treating those women.
“If a patient comes into the emergency room with a medical emergency that threatens the patient’s life or health, the hospital will provide the treatment necessary to stabilize that patient,” said Mr. Garland. “This includes abortion where that is the necessary treatment.”
The litigation came as voters in Kansas went to the polls to decide whether to cancel it 2019 ruling by the state Supreme Court to interpret the state Constitution as protecting abortion rights. The ballot initiative is the first referendum on abortion rights since the US Supreme Court’s decision at the end of June.
Last month, after the federal Department of Health and Human Services issued a directive to ensure access to abortion in certain emergency situations at hospitals that accept Medicare funding, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said. A lawsuit was filed challenging the rules.
The new case raises similar legal issues regarding the scope of federal law to protect emergency room doctors who determine that an abortion is necessary to treat dangerous pregnancy complications that do not pose a direct threat to the patient’s life. This time, however, the federal government is the plaintiff, not the defendant.
The Justice Department is also seeking an injunction barring Idaho from enforcing its strict abortion law on emergency room doctors, nurses and lab technicians who assist with abortions in emergency situations — including cases where women are facing conditions such as ectopic pregnancy, severe pre-eclampsia or pregnancy. Complications that threaten septic infections or hemorrhages.
Idaho’s nearly complete ban on abortion was triggered by a trigger that would have allowed it to take effect soon after any US Supreme Court ruling overturning its Roe v. abortion rights precedent. Wade. Because the court issued such a ruling earlier this summer, Idaho’s law takes effect in about three weeks.
The legislation prohibits abortion only when it is necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman — but not to protect her health — or in cases of rape or mutilation previously reported to the authorities.
It allows law enforcement officers to arrest and indict a doctor whenever an abortion is performed, regardless of the circumstances; it is up to the doctor, as a defense at trial, to prove that one of the narrow exceptions to the prohibition applied. As a result, critics of the law say doctors will be afraid to perform abortions under any circumstances.
Justice Department lawmakers seek a court declaration that the Idaho law is invalid if applied to cases covered by the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act because the U.S. Constitution makes federal law superior to state law. the two conflicts.
“Even in serious cases that may qualify for the Idaho law’s limited affirmative defense of ‘necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman,’ some providers may withhold care based on a well-founded fear of criminal prosecution,” a said the department’s complaint.
He continued: “Thus, Idaho’s abortion law will prohibit doctors from performing abortions even when a doctor determines that the abortion is medically necessary treatment to prevent a serious risk to the patient’s health and even in cases where it is likely to the death of the one who would be pregnant as a result of denial of care. patient.”
Appearing with Mr. Garland, Vanita Gupta, the associate attorney general and head of the Justice Department’s reproductive rights task force, said her working group was studying the “changing landscape of fast” of state law restrictions on abortion from the Supreme. Court ruling. She suggested more lawsuits were likely to follow.
“We know these are scary and uncertain times for pregnant women and their providers,” she said. “The Department of Justice, through the work of its task force, is committed to doing everything we can to ensure continued legal access to reproductive services.”