Supreme Court to Determine Whether Politicians Can Deny Emergency Medical Care to Pregnant People

Affiliate: ACLU of Idaho
April 24, 2024 9:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court will hear oral argument later today in Idaho and Moyle, et al. v. United States, a case brought by extreme politicians seeking to disregard a federal statute — the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) — and put doctors in jail for providing pregnant patients necessary emergency medical care. The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Idaho, and the law firm Cooley LLP previously filed an amicus brief in this case explaining that Idaho’s arguments cannot be justified under the Supreme Court’s own precedents, and that all three branches of government have long recognized that hospitals are required under EMTALA to provide emergency abortion care to any patient who needs it.

“For the second time in as many months, the Supreme Court will hear a case with extraordinary impacts on our ability to get the essential, and in some cases life-saving, health care we need,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Anti-abortion politicians have brought this case to the nation’s highest court to challenge long-standing federal protections for emergency care abortion care. If these extreme politicians succeed, doctors will be forced to withhold critical care from their patients, and pregnant people will suffer severe, life-altering health consequences, and even death. We’re already seeing the devastating impact of this case play out in Idaho, where medical evacuations to transport patients to other states for the care they need have dramatically spiked since the Supreme Court allowed state politicians to block emergency abortion care. This case once again highlights the extraordinary lengths extremist politicians will go to control our bodies, our lives, and our ability to get the health care we need.”

The case comes to the Supreme Court after the Department of Justice (DOJ) sued Idaho in August 2022, seeking an injunction to allow patients to receive abortions in emergency circumstances. The case argues that EMTALA — a nearly 40-year-old federal statute that requires hospitals that receive Medicare funds to provide emergency stabilizing treatment to any patient that needs it — prevents Idaho from banning emergency abortions. A lower court granted the injunction, but anti-abortion politicians appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court, which lifted the injunction and took the case in January.

Medical professionals, from the American College of Emergency Physicians and American Hospital Association to the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have underscored that doctors must be able to provide their patients with the emergency abortion care they need.

Idaho is home to one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country, which went into effect following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in 2022. As a result of this ban, medical providers have found themselves having to decide between providing stabilizing care to a pregnant patient and facing criminal prosecution from the state, or declining medical care and leaving a patient in crisis while facing federal sanctions for violating EMTALA.

As a result, Idaho has lost nearly 1 in 5 obstetricians and gynecologists who have chosen to leave the state and practice elsewhere, which has led to hospital obstetrics programs around the state shuttering their doors.

The brief in Idaho and Moyle, et al. v. United States is a part of the ACLU’s Joan and Irwin Jacobs Supreme Court Docket.

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