Idaho asks the Supreme Court for a stay of a law forcing emergency room physicians to perform abortions

By Dave Andrusko

The Alliance Defending Freedom and Cooper & Kirk, acting on behalf of the state of Idaho, filed an emergency application Monday for a stay pending an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of State of Idaho v. United States of America.

“Idaho’s law allows state officials to prosecute or revoke the professional license of doctors who perform abortions unless it was necessary to prevent the woman’s death, or the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest,” according to Michael Macagnone. Clearly you would expect the pro-abortion Biden to use every trick in the book to attack this strongly pro-life law.

So it was that in 2022 the Biden administration sued, using the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act [EMTALA] as a lever. EMTALA, established by the pro-life Reagan Administration, is “a federal Medicare statute meant to protect access to emergency treatment regardless of a patient’s ability to pay.” Among the vulnerable patients “were pregnant mothers in labor,” as Ashley Leenerts of  Texas Right to Life, explained. They would receive essential care for themselves and their preborn children.

But when the U.S. sued the State of Idaho, they claimed that EMTALA overrode Idaho’s pro-life law and “requires emergency departments to treat and stabilize any patient, and that doctors there could conclude an abortion is necessary to do so,” Macagnone wrote.

Judge B. Lynn Winmill of the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho was in the federal government’s corner.

He ruled that state officials for now can’t enforce the state law against doctors who are also required to follow a federal law to stabilize emergency patients.

Winmill wrote that a doctor making those complex, difficult decisions in a fast-moving, chaotic environment “may well find herself facing the impossible task of attempting to simultaneously comply with both federal and state law

In a petition filed yesterday, the state urged the justices to intervene to pause the lower court ruling that “strips Idaho of its sovereign interest in protecting innocent human life and turns emergency rooms into a federal enclave where state standards of care do not apply.”

Moreover, “The United States’ position conflicts with the universal agreement of federal courts of appeal that EMTALA does not dictate a federal standard of care or displace state medical standards. The district court accepted the United States’ revisionist, post-Dobbs reading of EMTALA and enjoined Idaho’s Defense of Life Act in emergency rooms. The district court’s injunction effectively turns EMTALA’s protection for the uninsured into a federal super-statute on the issue of abortion, one that strips Idaho of its sovereign interest in protecting innocent, human life and turns emergency rooms into a federal enclave where state standards of care do not apply,” the application further notes.

The motion “asks the nation’s high court to immediately halt the 9th Circuit’s ruling holding that the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act preempts Idaho’s Defense of Life Act,” the ADF said. “Idaho’s pro-life law imposes penalties on physicians who perform prohibited abortions unless doing so is necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman or other exceptions apply. The federal government claims—and the lower court ruled—that EMTALA requires abortions in violation of this law if an emergency room doctor thinks it is appropriate.”

“Hospitals—especially emergency rooms—are centers for preserving life. The government has no business transforming them into abortion clinics,” said ADF Senior Counsel Erin Hawley, vice president of the Center for Life and regulatory practice. “Emergency room physicians can, and do, treat ectopic pregnancies and other life-threatening conditions. But elective abortion is not life-saving care—it ends the life of the unborn child—and the government has no authority to override Idaho’s law barring these procedures. We urge the Supreme Court to halt the lower court’s injunction and allow Idaho emergency rooms to fulfill their primary function—saving lives.”