Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the lawsuit in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon. The Biden administration’s chief prosecutor claimed that the Idaho law illegally restricts access to abortion in some cases where the life of the mother is at risk.
“If a patient comes into the emergency room with a medical emergency jeopardizing the patient’s life or health, hospitals must provide the treatment necessary to stabilize that patient,” Garland said, according to The Wall Street Journal. “This includes abortion when that is the necessary treatment.”
Idaho’s law is set to take effect later this month, banning all abortions except where the life of the mother is in danger, rape, and incest. Though the state law has an exception for abortion if the life of the mother is in danger, the Justice Department’s lawsuit says the exception is too narrow and runs the risk of forcing doctors to violate federal law.
“The State of Idaho, however, has passed a near-absolute ban on abortion. Once the Idaho law takes effect on August 25, 2022, Idaho Code § 18-622 will make it a felony to perform an abortion in all but extremely narrow circumstances,” the lawsuit states. “The Idaho law would make it a criminal offense for doctors to comply with [Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act] requirement to provide stabilizing treatment, even where a doctor determines that abortion is the medical treatment necessary to prevent a patient from suffering severe health risks or even death.”
Governor Brad Little (R-ID) said the lawsuit amounted to “federal meddling” in the state’s newly-secured authority to set abortion law. Biden “continues to ignore issues that really should demand his attention – like crushing inflation and the open border with Mexico,” Little said.
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden issued a separate statement saying the federal government is misinterpreting federal law to find conflict where none exists.
“Contrary to the carefully edited assertion in paragraph 25 of the Department’s complaint that Idaho’s laws are preempted, EMTALA actually states: ‘The provisions of this section do not preempt any State or local law requirement, except to the extent that the requirement directly conflicts with a requirement of this section,’” Wasden said.
“Instead of complying with the requirements of this provision and reconciling Idaho’s law with EMTALA, or even attempting to engage Idaho in a meaningful dialogue on the issue, the federal government has chosen to waste taxpayer dollars on an unnecessary lawsuit,” he added.
The Supreme Court overturned its 1973 decision on Roe in June, ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that the constitutional authority to set limits on abortion procedures rests with the states.