Here’s What’s Happening In The Idaho Abortion Case At The Supreme Court

Idaho bans most abortions.

The Supreme Court is considering a challenge to Idaho’s abortion ban this week, the first time the court has considered whether a state abortion ban is constitutional since the demise of Roe v. Wade.

The court heard oral arguments on Wednesday in a case known as Moyle v. United States, which deals with whether Idaho emergency room doctors are required by federal law to perform abortions to stabilize pregnant women in medical crises.

Idaho bans all abortions except to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape and incest. Doctors who perform abortions can face criminal penalties, including up to five years in prison and the loss of their medical license.

The Biden administration is arguing that Idaho’s abortion ban flies in the face of a federal law, the 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act, known as EMTALA, which requires hospitals receiving federal funds to provide patients with stabilizing care. Hospitals that flout the law are at risk of losing their Medicare funding.

The federal law requires hospitals to care for people with an “emergency medical condition,” including pregnant women in situations where “the absence of immediate medical attention could reasonably be expected to result in” putting “the health of the woman or her unborn child” in “serious jeopardy.”

The administration claims the federal law should override Idaho’s abortion ban since, in some cases, stabilizing care will mean an emergency room abortion.

Meanwhile, Idaho officials counter that the Biden administration is simply trying to undermine the state’s abortion ban. Idaho’s attorney general, Raúl Labrador, alleged in a brief that the administration is attempting to use federal law to turn Idaho emergency rooms into “abortion enclaves in violation of state law.”

The administration’s interpretation of the federal law would make it easier for women to obtain medically unnecessary abortions, state officials argued. One of Idaho’s lawyers said a pregnant woman could potentially claim that her mental health required her to get an abortion.

The case is being closely watched since the justices’ decision could potentially have broad implications for the more than a dozen states that have enacted strict state abortion bans.

On Wednesday, justices appeared divided on the case mainly along ideological lines. The court currently has a majority of six conservative justices.

However, there appeared to be a split along gender lines as well. The court’s four female justices, including conservative Amy Coney Barrett, pushed back on Idaho’s claim that its abortion ban supersedes the federal law.

Barrett’s criticism was less about the abortion issue itself and more about how much discretion doctors have to make decisions in emergency medical situations. She appeared frustrated with Idaho’s attorney and accused him of “hedging” in his answers.

The Biden administration initially sued Idaho in August 2022. The case wound its way up to the 9th Circuit appeals court, which upheld a lower court’s ruling allowing doctors to perform abortions in emergency situations while the case continues.


As the election cycle heats up, Democrats have hammered the abortion issue and seized on personal stories of women who were prevented from obtaining an abortion in their home state.

Misinformation has spread about women allegedly suffering miscarriages or other adverse outcomes due to state abortion bans.

The Idaho case is the second major abortion case the high court has considered this month. The court is also handling a case involving the availability of the abortion drug mifepristone. At issue is the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recent moves to make mifepristone more accessible, including allowing it to be taken later in pregnancy and mailed without an in-person doctor’s visit.

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