The Department of Justice (DOJ) is suing the state of Idaho, arguing that its strict abortion laws are in violation of federal law, marking the Biden administration’s first lawsuit to protect access to abortion following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn abortion landmark ruling Roe v. Wade in June.
Attorney General Merrick Garland argued Tuesday that Idaho’s abortion laws violate the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) which requires medical providers to offer emergency medical treatment, NBC News reports.
The complaint reads that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act requires all hospitals that receive Medicare funds to provide “necessary stabilizing treatment to patients who arrive at their emergency departments while experiencing a medical emergency.”
Garland argued that abortion can fall under necessary medical treatment.
“This may be the case, for example, when a woman is undergoing a miscarriage that threatens septic infection or hemorrhage, or is suffering from severe preeclampsia,” Garland said.
In March, Idaho passed a ban on abortions after six weeks with minimal exceptions, which will go into effect on August 25. The legislation also allows mothers, fathers, and family members to file civil actions to collect damages associated with receiving an abortion.
Damages in the total of $20,000 can be sought from medical professionals that attempted or performed abortions. These civil actions can be brought against abortion providers up to four years from the date it was attempted or induced.
“In the days since the Dobbs decision, there have been widespread reports of delays and denials of treatment to pregnant women experiencing medical emergencies,” Garland said. “Today, the Justice Department’s message is clear — it does not matter what state a hospital subject to EMTALA operates in. If a patient comes into the emergency room with a medical emergency, jeopardizing the patient’s life or health, the hospital must provide the treatment necessary to stabilize that patient. This includes abortion, when that is the necessary treatment.”
Republican Governor Brad Little (Idaho) released a statement on Tuesday and said he will work with Idaho’s Attorney General to defend the state’s abortion laws from the DOJ.
“Our nation’s highest court returned the issue of abortion to the states to regulate — end of story,” Little said. “The US Justice Department’s interference with Idaho’s pro-life law is another example of Biden overreaching yet again while he continues to ignore issues that really should demand his attention — like crushing inflation and the open border with Mexico.”
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