Legal expert comments on the validity of abortion lawsuit filed against Idaho

The U.S. Department of Justice is moving forward with a lawsuit against Idaho’s abortion law.
Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 10:28 PM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — Idaho’s trigger law on abortion is set to go into effect on August 25. The law would criminalize nearly all abortions in Idaho, but now the U.S. Department of Justice is moving forward with a lawsuit against the state’s abortion law.

In the days since the Dobbs decision, there have been widespread reports of delays and denials of treatment to pregnant women experiencing medical emergencies,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland during a press conference on Tuesday. Additionally, he said hospitals must provide the treatment necessary for a patient’s life and health, this includes “abortion when that is the necessary treatment.”

“Any state law that prevents a hospital from fulfilling its obligation under EMTALA violates federal law,” said Garland.

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) requires hospitals that receive federal Medicare funds to provide necessary stabilizing treatment. Necessary stabilizing treatment includes all treatment needed to prevent serious jeopardy, bodily functions seriously impaired, or serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.

The Department of Justice’s lawsuits states that Idaho’s abortion law is too restrictive, with only exceptions for the life of the mother and rape and incest. Additionally, the “law provides no defense for an abortion necessary to protect the health of the pregnant patient.”

“The DOJ has it right in terms of the best argument is federal argument says one thing and state law says another,” said University of Idaho law professor Richard Seamon.

According to the law professor when there is a conflict between federal and state law, “...the Supremacy Clause of the U.S Constitution according to DOJ requires the state law to give way to, or yield” to federal law.

In a press release Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said in part:

“It’s unfortunate that, instead of sitting down with the State of Idaho to discuss the interplay between its abortion laws and EMTALA, the U.S. Department of Justice has chosen to file a politically motivated lawsuit. Since the Dobbs decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in June, the Department has had nearly six weeks to discuss with Idaho its abortion laws and their reconciliation with EMTALA.”

Seamon said one argument Idaho might make is, “It’s none of the federal government’s business, and the federal government does not have a direct interest in the Idaho abortion law...victims, if you want to put it that way, of the Idaho law are abortion providers in Idaho and women who want to seek abortions in Idaho.”

In closing he said a lawsuit could delay the law from going into effect, and whether or not it is overturned is tough to say at this point, but one thing is known.

“I think the DOJ wants to send a message to other states that they are next if they take more restrictive measures to abortion,” Seamon said.

In response to the Idaho lawsuit, IDGOP Chair Dorothy Moon said”

“Today, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Biden Administration targeted Idaho by filing a direct legal challenge to Idaho’s abortion law, which will go into effect later this month. This is only the latest in a long line of examples of the federal government assailing Idaho’s cherished values and attempting to impose its policy preferences on the people of Idaho, from Washington, D.C.

The Biden Administration believes that emergency rooms should become abortion clinics. The people of Idaho disagree.”

However, in contrast to the IDGOP chair, Idaho Democratic Party Chair Lauren Necochea said:

“Idaho’s radical abortion ban gives health care providers an impossible choice: withhold medically necessary care or face prison time. In states where these bans have gone into effect, providers are waiting for medical conditions to worsen before assisting their pregnant patients, increasing the risk of sepsis and other life-threatening complications. This is immoral.

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