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Federal govt sues state of Idaho for protecting life of woman, unborn child

Attorneys with ADF, Cooper & Kirk file emergency motion with U.S. Supreme Court asking it to protect Idaho emergency room doctors’ ability to preserve life
One in five women who undergo a chemical abortion will suffer a complication

WASHINGTON – On behalf of the state of Idaho, attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom and Cooper & Kirk assisted the Idaho Attorney General’s office in filing an emergency application for stay pending appeal Monday with the U.S. Supreme Court in State of Idaho v. United States of America. The case involves the Biden administration’s unlawful attempt to use a law that ensures indigent patients receive emergency room care to force doctors to perform abortions that are illegal under Idaho law.

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. 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.”

After the Supreme Court returned the issue of abortion to the states in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the federal government sued the state of Idaho, claiming that EMTALA, an ancillary provision of the Medicare statute, preempts Idaho’s pro-life law. But as explained in the emergency application, “EMTALA is silent on abortion and actually requires stabilizing treatment for the unborn children of pregnant women.”

“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.

ADF attorneys are litigating a similar case in Texas that is currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. In that case, State of Texas v. Becerra, a district court in Texas blocked the Biden administration’s attempt to force emergency rooms doctors to perform elective abortions.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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Erin Hawley, Senior Counsel, Vice President of Center for Life & Regulatory Practice
Erin Morrow Hawley
Senior Counsel, Vice President of Center for Life & Regulatory Practice
Erin Morrow Hawley serves as senior counsel and vice president of the Center for Life and regulatory practice at Alliance Defending Freedom.