NRL News

Supreme Court will hear challenge to Idaho’s Defense of Life Act by pro-abortion Biden administration

by | Mar 6, 2024

By Dave Andrusko

On April 24, the Supreme Court will hear the attempt by the pro-abortion Biden administration to defend the indefensible: its use of the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act as a lever to force emergency-room doctors to perform abortions in clear violation of Idaho’s Defense of Life Act.

After the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador said, “We are very pleased and encouraged by the Supreme Court’s decision.” The federal government “has been wrong from day one,” Labrador added. “Federal law does not preempt Idaho’s Defense of Life Act. In fact, EMTALA and Idaho’s law share the same goal: to save the lives of all women and their unborn children. The Supreme Court’s decision is a big step in stopping the administration’s lawless overreach. The people of Idaho have spoken with clarity on the issue of life.”

National Right to Life filed an amicus brief, strongly defended the proper use of EMTALA:

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) sets a minimum requirement for emergency medical treatment, instead of establishing a uniform, national standard of care. EMTALA, which is part of the Medicare regime, does not confer an inherent right to emergency medical care but instead imposes conditions for hospitals to provide such care. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) lacks the authority to interpret EMTALA as prescribing abortion as a national standard of care. The legislative history of EMTALA underscores its limited scope and deference to state regulation, and Congress has historically rejected efforts to expand EMTALA’s reach beyond its original anti-dumping purpose.

EMTALA, established by the pro-life Reagan Administration in 1986, is “a federal Medicare statute meant to protect access to emergency treatment regardless of a patient’s ability to pay.” Among the vulnerable patients “were pregnant mothers in labor,” as Ashley Leenerts of  Texas Right to Life, explained. “They would receive essential care for themselves and their preborn children.”

But when the U.S. sued the State of Idaho, they claimed that EMTALA overrode Idaho’s pro-life law and “requires emergency departments to treat and stabilize any patient, and that doctors there could conclude an abortion is necessary to do so,” Michael Macagnone wrote The Hill.

Judge B. Lynn Winmill of the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho “sided with the Biden administration and blocked implementation of the state law, finding that it violated the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act,” Macagnone wrote.

“A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit initially ruled in favor of the law, but the full court later paused the law while the case played out. The Supreme Court order puts on hold the lower court rulings and sets a timeline for oral arguments to April.”

“Hospitals—especially emergency rooms—are centers for preserving life. The government has no business transforming them into abortion clinics,” said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Counsel Erin Hawley, vice president of the Center for Life and Regulatory Practice. ADF is assisting the Idaho Attorney General’s office.

“Emergency room physicians can, and do, treat ectopic pregnancies and other life-threatening conditions,” she added.” “But elective abortion is not life-saving care—it ends the life of the unborn child—and the government has no authority to override Idaho’s law barring these procedures. We urge the Supreme Court to halt the lower court’s injunction and allow Idaho emergency rooms to fulfill their primary function—saving lives.”

Categories: Supreme Court