Supreme Court Rules Idaho Women Can Abort in Health Emergency

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Legend, Medical professionals protested outside court during hearings

  • Author, Holly Honderich
  • Role, BBC News

The Supreme Court has rejected an Idaho abortion case, a temporary victory for abortion rights supporters that will allow women to receive emergency abortions despite the state’s near-total ban .

However, the justices did not address the merits of the case, which involved a federal law requiring hospitals to provide stabilizing treatment to any patient arriving with an “emergency medical problem.”

The state of Idaho has argued that the law cannot replace the abortion ban, which provides an exception for the life – but not the health – of the mother.

The Biden administration disagreed and filed a lawsuit.

The short, unsigned opinion sends the case back to a lower court.

In a 6-3 vote, three conservative justices sided with the three liberal justices in dismissing the case, writing that it was “unanticipatedly granted.”

This decision will – for now – provide protection from lawsuits to doctors who believe an abortion is the best treatment for a patient in danger in the states.

But the court’s departure from the merits of the case means the door remains open to further challenges to Emtala.

In a joint dissent, the court’s newest member, liberal Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, criticized the court for its dismissal, saying it had “failed in its duty to resolve a pressing legal problem.”

“The conflict between state and federal laws still exists — in real life,” she said, referring to Idaho’s near-total ban on abortion. “There is simply no good reason not to resolve this conflict now.”

Justice Jackson’s rebuttal was echoed by some abortion rights activists, who said the court left women vulnerable.

“We are relieved at the moment, but we are not really looking forward to it. The Court pushed back,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, an abortion rights group. “Women who suffer serious pregnancy-related complications and the hospital staff who care for them need clarity now. »

In Idaho, abortion is prohibited throughout pregnancy, except in cases of rape, incest, certain cases of non-viable pregnancies and when “it is necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman.”

Doctors who break the law face prison sentences, heavy fines and loss of their medical licenses.

In court documents, a group of 678 Idaho doctors said the ban has already harmed women deprived of care while suffering serious pregnancy complications.

But anti-abortion activists countered that doctors deliberately misinterpreted the law, which allows for life-threatening cases.

Heartbeat International, a global anti-abortion network, said in a statement that the Supreme Court’s decision would leave states “effectively powerless to protect mothers and their unborn children from voluntary abortion.”

Thursday’s ruling comes two years after the court overturned Roe v Wade and struck down the nation’s abortion guarantee. Since then, a patchwork of abortion laws has emerged as more conservative states, like Idaho, restrict access to the procedure.

This is the second opinion on abortion issued this month by the nation’s highest court.

He also rejected an attempt to restrict access to the abortion pill mifepristone. In that case, the court said the plaintiffs did not have the legal right to sue, thereby avoiding the merits of the case and allowing future challenges.

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