Idaho’s near-total abortion ban, which will go into effect later this month, would make it nearly impossible, according to the Justice Department, for patients who need an abortion in medical situations of emergency, such as an ectopic pregnancy or other complications, to receive potentially life-saving treatment.
“In the days following the Dobbs decision, there were numerous reports of delays or denials of pregnant women in medical emergencies,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said Tuesday at a press conference. “We will use all the tools at our disposal to ensure that pregnant women receive the medical care to which they are entitled.”
The trigger law, which was passed in 2020, would make abortion a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. The ban has exceptions for cases of rape or incest if reported to law enforcement or to prevent the death of the pregnant person.
The Justice Department is suing under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which states that hospitals receiving Medicare funds “must provide medical treatment necessary to stabilize this condition before transferring or discharging the patient,” according to Tuesday’s trial.
“Idaho law would make it a criminal offense for physicians to comply with EMTALA’s requirement to provide stabilizing therapy, even when a physician determines that abortion is the medical treatment necessary to prevent a patient to suffer serious health risks or even die,” the DOJ said. in his trial.
CNN has reached out to Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden for comment.
Under the Idaho law, which is due to go into effect Aug. 25, abortion providers could be subject to arrest and prosecution if a prosecutor can prove an abortion was performed, with the burden placed on suppliers to prove an “affirmative defense” at trial, according to the DOJ.
The law “places medical professionals in an impossible situation, they must either suspend the stabilization treatment required by EMTALA or risk felony charges and license revocation. In doing so, the law will curb the will of providers to perform abortions in emergency situations,” the Associate Attorney General said. Vanita Gupta, who heads the task force, said Tuesday.
Garland said the lawsuit had “nothing to do with circumventing” the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs.
“The Supreme Court has said that each state can make its own abortion decisions, but the federal government can do that too,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “Nothing the Supreme Court said, said laws passed by Congress, like EMTALA, are in any way invalid. Quite the opposite. The Supreme Court left it up to the representatives of the people. EMTALA was a a decision made by the United States Congress The Supremacy Clause is a decision made in the United States Constitution Federal law invalidates state laws that directly conflict with it.
Abortion providers and advocates in Idaho have also challenged the state’s trigger law, arguing that the law is so vague that providers don’t know if they can provide patient care in such cases. than miscarriages. The state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case on Wednesday.
This story has been updated with additional details.