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Idaho’s Abortion Ban Back In Effect As Supreme Court Considers It

The U.S. Supreme Court allowed Idaho's abortion ban to go into effect, and agreed to hear an appeal in the case, scheduling arguments for April. It was the first time the court weighed in on a state's criminal law banning abortions since the 2022 decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Idaho’s law, the "Defense of Life Act", would make it a crime for "every person who performs or attempts to perform an abortion," even when the woman's health is greatly endangered, NPR reports. The only exception to the abortion ban is when an abortion is "necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman.” In August 2022 the Biden administration successfully sued to block the law, arguing that the state statute illegally conflicts with the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act. That law requires hospitals to provide "necessary stabilizing treatment" when the health of the mother is in danger. And the court found that Idaho's exception for only fatal cases "is narrower" than the federal law which "protects patients not only from imminent death but also from emergencies that seriously threaten their health.”

As the government explained in its brief, "pregnant patients arrive at emergency rooms in Idaho suffering from non-lethal conditions — including infections, pre-eclampsia, or premature pre-term rupture of membranes — for which pregnancy termination is the stabilizing care required to avoid grave harms like strokes, sepsis, and kidney failure.” The lower court agreed that "it is impossible to comply with both [the federal and state] statutes," and blocked Idaho's law the day before it was to go into effect. That decision was briefly overturned by a a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals comprised of Trump-appointees. The full Ninth Circuit quickly reversed that ruling, and kept Idaho's law on ice. On Friday, the Supreme Court intervened to allow Idaho's criminal abortion ban to take effect and agreed to hear an appeal in April. The order could have widespread effects, empowering other states with less restrictive bans to pass more stringent laws.


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