US Supreme Court will hear fight over Idaho’s near-total abortion ban By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The sun casts shadows as it rises over the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., December 20, 2023. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

By John Kruzel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide a clash between Idaho officials and President Joe Biden’s administration over the state’s near-total abortion ban in medical-emergency situations.

The justices granted a request by Idaho officials to review a federal judge’s ruling that blocked the state’s abortion restrictions after concluding the measure must yield to a federal law that ensures that patients can receive emergency “stabilizing care.” The court on Friday also lifted the judge’s block while the case proceeds.

Idaho officials in November urged the justices to pause U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill’s August 2022 preliminary injunction issued after he concluded that Idaho’s abortion measure conflicted with a 1986 U.S. law called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which requires hospitals to “stabilize” patients with emergency medical conditions.

Idaho’s Republican attorney general and top Republican state lawmakers in court papers told the Supreme Court that Winmill’s ruling has permitted “an ongoing violation of both Idaho’s sovereignty and its traditional police power over medical practice.”

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority in June 2022 overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that had recognized a woman’s right under the U.S. Constitution to terminate her pregnancy. That ruling set in motion a series of new abortion restrictions imposed by Republican-led states.

In Idaho, a so-called “trigger” law banning abortion that was passed by the Republican-led state legislature and signed by a Republican governor in 2020 automatically took effect upon Roe being overturned. Idaho’s law, known as the Defense of Life Act, bans all abortions except in instances in which an abortion is found to be necessary to prevent the mother’s death.

Following the Roe reversal, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under Biden’s direction issued federal guidance stating that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act takes precedence over state abortion bans.

The Biden administration sued Idaho over its trigger law in August 2022, arguing that the measure conflicted with the 1986 law because the federal statute could potentially require abortions that would not be included under Idaho’s narrow exception for saving the mother’s life.

Winmill that month agreed, blocking the Idaho law from being enforced in cases of abortions needed to avoid putting the woman’s health in “serious jeopardy” or risking “serious impairment to bodily functions.”

A three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in September agreed to let Idaho enforce its ban amid an appeal. But the full 9th Circuit this month reversed the panel’s ruling, granting the Biden administration’s request to block the Idaho law while the appeal proceeds.

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