Updated Aug 2, 2022 - Health

Biden's DOJ sues Idaho over near-total abortion ban

Picture of Merrick Garland
Photo: Evelyn Hockstein-Pool/Getty Images

The Justice Department on Tuesday filed a challenge to Idaho's "trigger" near-total abortion ban — the Biden's administration's first abortion lawsuit against a state since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Driving the news: Idaho's ban is set to take effect in late August and would make abortion illegal unless needed to save a pregnant person's life. The DOJ argues the state's ban has "extremely narrow" exceptions and conflicts with federal law, which allows for abortions to be performed in emergency situations.

What they're saying: "The suit seeks to hold invalid the state's criminal prohibition on providing abortions as applied to women who are suffering medical emergencies," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a press conference.

  • Under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, "every hospital that receives Medicare funds must provide necessary stabilizing treatment to a patient who arrives at an emergency room suffering from a medical condition that could place their life or health in serious jeopardy. In some circumstances, the medical treatment necessary to stabilize the patient's condition is abortion."
  • Garland added that while Idaho has exceptions to prevent a patient's death, it has no exceptions for other types of emergencies and "would subject doctors to arrest and criminal prosecution even if they performed an abortion to save a woman's life."

Between the lines: Idaho is not the only state that has an abortion ban containing exceptions only to save the life of a pregnant person.

State of play: The Biden administration is asking a district court in Idaho to declare that the state's law violates the Constitution's supremacy clause and is "preempted by federal law to the extent it is in conflict with EMTALA," Garland said.

  • DOJ is also seeking an order to "preliminarily and permanently" enjoin Idaho's ban.

What to watch: Garland said DOJ's Reproductive Rights Task Force is evaluating reports from other states with restrictive abortion laws and is "making determinations about what further litigation we'll seek."

Read the DOJ's lawsuit:

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