Supreme Court says emergency abortions can be performed in Idaho


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Washington — The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed abortions to be performed during certain medical emergencies in Idaho, reinstating a lower court order that blocked the state from enforcing its near-total ban when an abortion is needed to preserve the health of the mother while legal proceedings continue.

The dispute pitted Idaho’s measure, enacted after the reversal of Roe v. Wade, against a federal law that requires Medicare-funded hospitals to offer abortions when needed to stabilize a patient’s emergency medical condition.

The majority dismissed Idaho’s appeal of a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that kept the injunction in place. The Supreme Court in January allowed Idaho to enforce its ban in certain medical situations while it considered the case, but its ruling now dissolves that order.

The court did not address the underlying question of whether the federal law, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA, trumps Idaho’s near-total ban in certain circumstances. Instead, the decision indicates the Supreme Court believes it intervened in the dispute too soon. The case is likely to return to the high court after more proceedings.

Still, the ruling is a victory for the Biden administration, although likely a temporary one. The government has argued that EMTALA requires hospitals in states with the most stringent restrictions to offer abortions in certain medical emergencies when necessary to prevent harms to the mother’s health.

The decision’s release came after Bloomberg reported that a copy of the opinion was posted on the Supreme Court’s website inadvertently Wednesday. The outlet published the ruling, which showed that the court was set to allow emergency abortions in Idaho. The Supreme Court acknowledged a document was “inadvertently and briefly” uploaded, but said the opinion in the cases out of Idaho would be issued “in due course.”

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