Idaho’s near-total abortion ban, which will take effect later this month, would make it nearly impossible, according to the Justice Department. for patients who need an abortion in emergency medical situations, such as an ectopic pregnancy or other complications, from receiving potentially lifesaving treatment.
“In the days since the Dobbs decision, there have been widespread reports of delays or denials to pregnant women experiencing medical emergencies,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a news conference Tuesday. “We will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that pregnant women get the medical care that they are entitled to.”
The trigger law, which was passed in 2020, would make providing abortions a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. The ban has exceptions for cases of rape or incest if reported to law enforcement or to prevent the death of the pregnant person.
The Justice Department is suing under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which states that hospitals receiving Medicare funds “must provide medical treatment necessary to stabilize that condition before transferring or discharging the patient,” according to Tuesday’s lawsuit.
“The Idaho law would make it a criminal offense for doctors to comply with EMTALA’s requirement to provide stabilizing treatment, even where a doctor determines that abortion is the medical treatment necessary to prevent a patient from suffering severe health risks or even death,” DOJ said .
Abortion providers in Idaho have also challenged the state’s trigger law. The state Supreme Court is set to hear the case on Wednesday.
Garland said that the lawsuit has “nothing to do with going around” the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs.
“The Supreme Court said that each state can make its own decisions with respect to abortion, but so too can the federal government,” he told reporters Tuesday. “Nothing that the Supreme Court said, said that the statutes passed by Congress, such as EMTALA are in any way invalid. It’s quite the opposite. The Supreme Court left it to the people’s representatives. EMTALA was a decision made by the Congress of the United States. The supremacy clause is a decision made in the Constitution of the United States. Federal law invalidates state laws that are in direct contradiction.”
This story has been updated with additional details.