Judge blocks part of new Idaho abortion law in Biden administration’s first post-Roe lawsuit

A federal judge Wednesday temporarily stalled part of Idaho’s tough abortion law set to go into effect Thursday, giving the Biden administration a narrow courtroom victory in its first lawsuit to protect reproductive rights since the Supreme Court quashed Roe v. Wade.

U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill’s ruling bars Idaho from enforcing the new law when it conflicts with federal guidelines on emergency abortion care in hospitals.

“The State of Idaho will suffer no real prejudice if the Court grants the modest preliminary injunction sought by the United States,” Winmill wrote.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the trial against Idaho this month, arguing that the state law conflicts with a federal law known as the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA, which was enacted in 1986 to ensure that patients receive adequate emergency medical care.

This law requires physicians to provide the emergency medical care necessary to stabilize anyone who presents to the emergency room. “That includes abortion, when it comes to necessary treatment,” Garland said at the time.

In a statement, Garland said the judge’s decision would protect a woman’s ability to get the emergency medical treatment she needs, as guaranteed by federal law, which “includes abortion when is the necessary treatment”.

“As the district court has ruled, a state law that attempts to prevent a hospital from fulfilling its obligations under the EMTALA violates federal law and the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution,” said Garland.

NBC News has reached out to the Idaho governor’s office and the state’s attorney general’s office for comment.

Winmill heard arguments on the Justice Department’s request for a preliminary injunction on Monday and said he would issue a written order no later than Wednesday. The state law is still set to go into effect Thursday, minus the provision that Winmill said the state cannot enforce at this time.

While the state argued that its law did not conflict with EMTALA, Winmill found its argument unconvincing, “because it failed to properly consider the incredibly broad scope of its law”, which, according to him, “criminalizes all abortions”.

“It is impossible to comply with both laws,” Winmill wrote. “[W]here, federal law requires the provision of care and state law criminalizes that same care, it is impossible to comply with both laws. Complete stop.”

The Idaho decision came just hours after a setback for the administration in Texas, where a federal judge barred the state from enforcing Department of Health and Human Services guidelines that require hospitals to offer emergency abortions to women.

Garland said the Justice Department disagrees with the decision and is “considering appropriate next steps.”

The court battles are unfolding as election politics indicate that many voters are likely to make abortion a top priority in November’s midterm elections.

Kansas voters this month massively rejected a proposed state constitutional amendment that sought to remove language guaranteeing reproductive rights.

In a special election In New York, Democrat Pat Ryan beat Republican Marc Molinaro on Tuesday in a race where Ryan made abortion rights a key campaign issue. The Hudson Valley congressional district served as a national bellwether — it voted for Biden by about 2 percentage points in 2020 after backing former presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama in their successful campaigns.

Daniel Barnes and Gregorian Dareh contributed.

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