Attorney General Bonta: District Court Rightfully Blocks Enforcement of Idaho’s Radical Abortion Ban

Wednesday, August 24, 2022
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Today’s district court decision grants the federal government's motion for preliminary injunction enjoining Idaho’s near-total abortion ban for violating the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act 

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today applauded the district court’s decision in United States of America v. Idaho, granting the federal government’s motion for preliminary injunction to stop enforcement of Idaho’s near-total ban on abortion, as it relates to life-saving medical care. Attorney General Bonta and New York Attorney General Letitia James led a coalition of 21 attorneys general in an amicus brief supporting the federal government’s lawsuit, arguing that Idaho’s abortion ban conflicts with the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) and puts at risk the lives and health of individuals with pregnancy-related emergency medical conditions. The district court relied on the California-led amicus brief in its decision, citing the empirical evidence that California and other states marshaled showing that abortion bans delay care and ultimately hurt the health of pregnant patients facing medical emergencies.  

“When a medical emergency happens, healthcare providers must be allowed to provide life-saving care, including abortion care, without fear of prosecution,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Today’s district court decision rightfully ensures that doctors can continue to provide life-saving emergency medical care to those who need it. In California, we will continue to use every tool at our disposal to protect reproductive rights, and ensure that everyone – including pregnant people – have access to the healthcare they need to live a long and healthy life.”

In 2020, Idaho enacted S.B. 1385, which criminalizes all abortions and imposes prison time on anyone who performs, assists, or attempts to perform an abortion – even in the context of emergency care. With the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization overturning Roe v. Wade, Idaho’s law was triggered to automatically take effect on August 25. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit challenging Idaho’s ban on August 2, arguing that it conflicts with protections afforded by EMTALA, a federal law that requires doctors to provide medically necessary treatment to pregnant people necessitating abortion care. Today’s district court order ensures that Idaho’s abortion ban will not take effect to the extent it conflicts with EMTALA while litigation remains ongoing.

In the decision, the court recognized that preventing hospitals from performing abortions needed to treat an emergency medical condition, as determined by a treating physician, 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 situation, any failure to provide, or delays in providing, necessary abortion care can put at risk the pregnant patient’s life or health. The California and New York-led amicus brief provided numerous examples of how abortions are often vital emergency medicine, and cited an empirical study from Texas showing how patient outcomes dramatically worsened after S.B. 8 went into effect last September. The district court cited California's brief and in particular the Texas study to find that "the wait for care is troubling enough on its own. Even worse, delayed care worsens patient outcomes."

A copy of the decision is available here.

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