U.S. Justice Department Sues Idaho Over Abortion Ban in First Legal Challenge Since Roe v. Wade Reversal

The United States Justice Department filed a lawsuit on Aug. 2 against Idaho over its near-total abortion ban, arguing that it violates federal law.

In a 17-page complaint, the Justice Department argues that Idaho’s abortion law, which will take effect on Aug. 25, “directly conflicts” with the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) in emergency medical situations where an abortion is necessary.

Under EMTALA, hospitals receiving Medicare funds must provide “necessary stabilizing treatment to patients who arrive at their emergency departments while experiencing a medical emergency,” according to the complaint.

“When a physician reasonably determines that the necessary stabilizing treatment is an abortion, state law cannot prohibit the provision of that care,” the Justice Department said.

Idaho’s trigger law, which passed in 2020, would make providing abortions a felony punishable by two to five years in prison. Physicians who perform the procedure may also have their medical license revoked.

The Idaho law has exceptions for cases of rape or incest if reported to law enforcement first, and cases in preventing the death of a pregnant person.

The lawsuit is the Justice Department’s first legal challenge to protect abortion access since the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision in late June.

In a statement, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden called the lawsuit “politically motivated.”

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