OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case concerning the Biden administration’s interpretation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) and upheld Idaho’s law prohibiting the majority of abortions.
EMTALA, according to the administration, mandates that emergency room physicians perform abortions.
Idaho argues that EMTALA’s legislation is consistent with the organization’s mission to save lives and makes no mention of abortion. Following a stay by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit of the HHS EMTALA guidance in Texas, the Supreme Court rendered its decision.
While the Attorney General of Idaho praised the decision, President Joe Biden criticized it.
“That exception is narrower than EMTALA, which by its terms protects patients not only from imminent death but also from emergencies that seriously threaten their health,” the brief reads.
“Idaho law thus criminalizes care required by federal law: Under Section 18-622, an emergency room physician who concludes that a pregnant woman needs an abortion to stabilize a condition that would otherwise threaten serious and irreversible harm may not provide the necessary care unless and until the patient’s condition deteriorates to the point where an abortion is needed to save her life.”
“EMTALA does not mandate any specific type of medical treatment, let alone abortion,” Judge Kurt Engelhardt wrote. “We agree with the district court that EMTALA does not provide an unqualified right for the pregnant mother to abort her child especially when EMTALA imposes equal stabilization obligations.”
“The question before the court is whether EMTALA, according to HHS’s Guidance, mandates physicians to provide abortions when that is the necessary stabilizing treatment for an emergency medical condition. It does not. We therefore decline to expand the scope of EMTALA,” he added.
“Today’s Supreme Court order allows Idaho’s extreme abortion ban to go back into effect and denies women critical emergency abortion care required by federal law. The overturning of Roe v. Wade has enabled Republican elected officials to pursue dangerous abortion bans like this one that continue to jeopardize women’s health, force them to travel out of state for care, and make it harder for doctors to provide care, including in an emergency,” Biden said in a statement after the ruling.
“These bans are also forcing doctors to leave Idaho and other states because of laws that interfere with their ability to care for their patients. This should never happen in America. The Vice President and I believe that health care decisions should be made by women and their doctors, not politicians. We will continue to defend a woman’s ability to access emergency care under federal law. As this case continues, the stakes could not be higher for women across America. Congress must immediately restore the protections of Roe v. Wade so that women in every state can access the health care they need,” Biden continued.
Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador celebrated the ruling.
“We are very pleased and encouraged by the Supreme Court’s decision today. The federal government has been wrong from day one. Federal law does not preempt Idaho’s Defense of Life Act. In fact, EMTALA and Idaho’s law share the same goal: to save the lives of all women and their unborn children,” Labrador said.
“Today, the Supreme Court’s decision is a big step in stopping the administration’s lawless overreach. The people of Idaho have spoken with clarity on the issue of life,” he added.