Idaho’s Six-week Abortion Restriction Challenged

On Tuesday, the Department of Justice launched a lawsuit against Idaho’s six-week abortion restriction. 

The agency contended that Idaho’s statute contradicts the national Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA). This compels doctors to deliver medically stable care in an emergency, including an abortion.


The complaint seeks an injunction to stop law enforcement when an abortion is required to stabilize treatment for an acute medical condition.

The Department of Justice stated the law would likely compel clinicians to withhold care out of a reasonable fear of criminal punishment. 

The Idaho “trigger” law goes into effect on August 25.

It will subject physicians to detention and criminal punishment for executing an abortion, even if the patient is experiencing a medical emergency, such as ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage difficulties, or extreme preeclampsia. 

There are exemptions for rape, incest, and preserving the mother’s life; however, a rape or incest victim must present a copy of the police report to the doctor performing the abortion. 

“When Roe v. Wade fell, we pledged the Department of Justice would work diligently to safeguard and advance reproductive freedom,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said after a news conference on Tuesday to announce the suit. 

Garland said they would utilize every resource available to guarantee pregnant women receive the emergency medical care to which they are legally entitled. 

In a comment, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden (R) stated the federal EMTALA legislation does not totally trump state law; he was dismayed the Biden administration chose to sue. 

Wasden stated it is regrettable the U.S. Department of Justice opted to file a politically driven lawsuit against the State of Idaho, instead of discussing the interaction between its abortion statutes and EMTALA. 

Rather than adhering to this clause and harmonizing Idaho’s statute with EMTALA or even seeking to involve Idaho in a constructive debate on the problem, the national government has opted to waste public funds on a useless lawsuit. 

This is the first significant case filed against a state abortion prohibition since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

EMTALA Guidelines

Last month, the Biden presidency issued guidance reiterating that EMTALA protects clinicians who deliver legally mandated, health-or-life-saving abortion procedures in emergency cases. 

EMTALA has been in effect for almost three decades.

If an emergency medical situation is determined to exist, the hospital is required by law to give the patient available settling treatment or to transfer the patient to another hospital with the capability to provide stabilizing care. 

Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, who oversees the Department of Justice’s reproductive rights task force, stated the law will discourage physicians from performing abortions in genuine emergencies.

Gupta said it will harm patients by restricting access to medically needed health care. 

Gupta stated they are aware these are stressful and unpredictable times for pregnant women and their providers. The Justice Department is dedicated to doing all possible to ensure continuing legal access to reproductive services through the efforts of its task force.

This article appeared in NewsHouse and has been published here with permission.