Attorney General Bonta Co-Leads Multistate Coalition to Protect Access to Emergency Abortion Care

Thursday, March 28, 2024
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OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today co-led a coalition of 24 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court, supporting the Biden administration’s challenge to Idaho’s near-total ban on abortion. In an amicus brief filed in Idaho v. United States, the multistate coalition supports the U.S. government’s argument that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), a federal law, requires hospitals to provide necessary abortion care to pregnant people experiencing medical emergencies. The coalition further argues that Idaho’s ban not only endangers the lives and health of pregnant individuals in the state but would also have serious repercussions on the health systems of other states.

At the California Department of Justice, we vehemently oppose Idaho’s near-total abortion ban law as it strips away an individual’s right to make their own healthcare decisions, including the right to receive abortion care when facing a medical emergency that threatens severe harm to the patient’s health. Whether in an outpatient setting or in an emergency room, abortion care is healthcare,” said Attorney General Bonta. “That’s why I, alongside attorneys general nationwide, are standing firm in our commitment to defending reproductive rights and ensuring access to safe and legal abortion care for all individuals.”

Every hospital in the United States that operates an emergency department and participates in Medicare is subject to EMTALA. Under the law, emergency departments are required to provide all patients who have an emergency medical condition with the treatment required to stabilize their condition. EMTALA’s requirement extends to abortion care, which is sometimes necessary to stabilize a pregnant individual experiencing an emergency medical condition. Under Idaho’s radical abortion ban, which came into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision overturning Roe v. Wade, healthcare providers face criminal prosecution and loss of their license for providing this medically necessary care.
Idaho v. United States is one of the many cases in Idaho and across the country that follows Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, where the Supreme Court upended decades of legal precedent by overturning Roe v. Wade. In August 2022, the Biden administration successfully sued to block enforcement of Idaho’s ban to the extent it conflicts with EMTALA, winning a preliminary injunction from the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho. Idaho appealed the district court’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, but the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case before the Ninth Circuit could weigh in on the merits. The Supreme Court has allowed Idaho to enforce provisions of the near-total abortion ban that could penalize doctors who perform abortions in emergency situations while the Supreme Court’s decision in the case is pending. In today’s amicus brief, the multistate coalition supports the federal government’s case arguing that:

  • Decades of federal guidance and court precedent have held that stabilizing treatment under EMTALA includes emergency abortion care, and states have relied on that determination to protect their residents' health and safety.
  • Preventing medical providers from performing abortions needed to treat emergency medical conditions threatens the health and lives of pregnant patients. Many pregnancy and miscarriage complications are emergency medical conditions requiring time-sensitive stabilizing treatment that can include abortion. In an emergency, any failure to provide, or delays in providing, necessary abortion care can put at risk the pregnant patient’s life or health.
  • If Idaho hospitals do not provide the emergency abortion care required by EMTALA, patients will be forced to turn to out-of-state hospitals and providers, adding strain to other states’ emergency departments that are already struggling with overcrowding, long wait times, and staff shortages. The added strain will cause more delays and threaten the safety and health of all patients who need emergency care.

Today’s amicus brief was led by the attorneys general of California and New York, who were joined by the attorneys general of Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.

A copy of the brief is available here

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