Supreme Court Will Take Up Emergency Abortions in April

ACLU calls the January ruling “astonishing”

The case will determine whether emergency abortions are protected by federal law (Photo by Getty Images)

The U.S. Supreme Court alarmed abortion rights advocates last week by allowing an extreme provision of an Idaho abortion ban to stay in effect, for now.

On Jan. 5, the court overturned a ruling from a lower court that would have allowed doctors to perform abortions in emergency situations to save the life of the mother. The court said it will hear arguments on the issue in April.

“The announcement by the Supreme Court should leave all Americans very frightened,” Jennifer Dalven of the American Civil Liberties Union said. “Overturning Roe was just the beginning. Now anti-abortion politicians are arguing that they have the right to prevent people from getting the care they need, even when their very lives are at stake.”

The Biden administration sued Idaho over the provision in 2022, arguing that it would force doctors to violate the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act or EMTALA, a federal law which requires that anyone coming into an emergency room be treated and stabilized. “Idaho’s law would make it a criminal offense for doctors to provide the emergency medical treatment that federal law requires,” Attorney General Merrick Garland clarified at the time.

Dalven noted that the Idaho case addresses the same issue that recently played out in Texas in the Kate Cox controversy. Cox sued Texas in December to allow her to get an abortion after doctors discovered that her fetus had a chromosomal anomaly that almost always results in the death of the baby. It also meant Cox could lose her ability to carry future pregnancies if she took the pregnancy to term. Travis County District Judge Maya Gamble issued a temporary injunction, deciding that Cox’s abortion would be legal under current Texas law. Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed the case to the Texas Supreme Court, which overturned Gamble’s ruling. Cox was forced to travel out of state to get the abortion.

Dalven said she is astonished that the nation’s highest court has decided to stop women from getting life-saving care, even if it’s only until April. “Let’s be very clear. The result will be that we will see more women like Kate Cox from Texas who was forced to flee her home state to get the critical care she needed,” Dalven said. “Other women won’t have that option, and some will die as a result of the abortion bans.”

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