When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, it returned the issue of abortion to the people and their elected lawmakers—allowing states to enact strong pro-life policies.
Now, the Biden administration is attempting to undermine that ruling by misusing federal law to override state law and force doctors to perform abortions.
What is the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act?
The U.S. Congress passed the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) in 1986. It requires all hospitals that participate in Medicare to provide medical screening and stabilizing treatment for emergency medical conditions, even if the patient is uninsured or unable to pay.
EMTALA explicitly states that hospitals are required to provide treatment to stabilize emergency medical conditions for both a pregnant mother and her “unborn child.” The act clearly outlines the need to protect unborn children, not harm them.
But following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe, the Biden administration is attempting to misuse EMTALA to force doctors to perform abortions.
Currently, Texas law protects every person’s life, including the unborn, allowing abortion only to save the life of the mother.
According to the state’s Human Life Protection Act, which went into effect following the overturning of Roe, “[a] person may not knowingly perform, induce, or attempt an abortion.” Texas also has several laws predating Roe that prohibit anyone in the state from causing an abortion or acting as an accomplice to an abortion or attempted abortion.
All these laws include exceptions in cases where the life of the mother is at risk. And doctors in Texas, as in every other state, can and do treat women’s ectopic pregnancies and other life-threatening conditions in the emergency room.
In State of Texas v. Becerra, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys are representing doctors who are members of two pro-life organizations—the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) and the Christian Medical and Dental Associations (CMDA).
The state of Texas, AAPLOG, and CMDA filed a lawsuit in July 2022 seeking to have the unconstitutional abortion mandate struck down. Less than a month later, a federal district court in Texas granted our request to temporarily halt the mandate while the lawsuit proceeds, and the 5th Circuit upheld this decision in January 2024.
In 2020, Idaho enacted the Defense of Life Act to protect the lives of women and their children, ensuring doctors do not perform abortions except when necessary to preserve the life of the mother. The law was set to go into effect following the overturning of Roe, but the Biden administration sued Idaho in August 2022, claiming it could use EMTALA to override Idaho’s law and force the State’s emergency room doctors to perform abortions. The Office of the Idaho Attorney General, with the assistance of attorneys at ADF and the law firm Cooper & Kirk, is defending Idaho’s Defense of Life Act against the Biden administration’s attempt to force doctors to take vulnerable lives
After a lower court upheld the Biden administration’s novel interpretation of EMTALA and prevented Idaho from enforcing its law, Idaho filed an emergency application for stay pending appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court to allow Idaho to continue to enforce its law and protect the lives of women and their children while the case proceeds. In January 2024, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and said Idaho could enforce its law as the litigation continues. Argument will take place on April 24, 2024.
What’s at stake in the Idaho case?
EMTALA and Idaho’s law share a consistent goal: save every person’s life. In fact, EMTALA requires that emergency rooms provide care to everyone, including pregnant women and their unborn children, regardless of whether the patient has insurance. But the Biden administration is abusing federal law to override Idahoans’ choice to preserve life and demand that doctors take vulnerable lives. The government should never force a doctor to perform an abortion.
What’s at stake in the Texas case?
The government shouldn’t force a doctor to perform an abortion. The Biden abortion rule violates the rights of AAPLOG members, CMDA members, and other doctors who have ethical and medical objections to performing abortions.
- State of Texas v. Becerra
- July 2022: After the Biden administration issued guidance declaring that EMTALA mandates the performance of some elective abortions, the state of Texas, AAPLOG, and CMDA filed a lawsuit seeking to have the Biden administration’s unconstitutional abortion mandate struck down.
- August 2022: A federal district court in Texas granted ADF’s request to temporarily halt enforcement of the mandate while the lawsuit proceeds. The Biden administration appealed the decision.
- November 2023: Oral argument was heard at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.
- January 2024: The 5th Circuit ruled that the Biden administration cannot use EMTALA to force emergency room doctors to perform abortions.
- State of Idaho v. United States of America
- August 2022: The Biden administration sued the state of Idaho seeking to override Idaho’s Defense of Life Act, and a federal district court temporarily enjoined Idaho’s law in emergency rooms.
- May 2023: The district court denied Idaho’s motion for reconsideration.
- October 2023: A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit unanimously agreed to allow Idaho to enforce its life-saving law.
- November 2023: An en banc 9th Circuit panel reversed the three-judge panel’s decision and prevented Idaho from enforcing its law. Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador assembled a team of Supreme Court experts that included his Office of Solicitor General, Alliance Defending Freedom, and Cooper & Kirk to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to prevent the Biden administration from manipulating EMTALA to override Idaho’s law.
- January 2024: The Supreme Court agreed to hear Idaho’s case and said the state could enforce its law and protect the lives of women and children as the litigation continues. Oral argument will take place on April 24, 2024.