Supreme Court Allows Emergency Abortions in Idaho, For Now

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THURSDAY, June 27, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that, for now, emergency abortions be allowed in Idaho when a woman's health is at risk.

Importantly, the opinion issued Thursday only dismissed the case on procedural grounds, stating the court would not address the merits of the dispute at this time.

The decision reinstates a lower-court ruling that had halted Idaho’s near-total ban on abortion and permitted emergency abortions at hospitals if the health of the mother is at stake. Meanwhile, the case could wind its way back through the courts.

The case centers on whether a federal law requiring emergency care for any patient, including a pregnant woman, overrides Idaho’s strict abortion ban, which outlaws the procedure with few exceptions unless the woman’s life is in danger.

Reaction to the ruling was swift.

"While it is devastating that the Supreme Court declined to end this uncertainty, this decision will ensure that for now abortion care can be provided in the case of life-threatening emergencies and will save countless lives," Jamila Perritt, president and CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Health, said in a statement issued shortly after the ruling was issued. "People need abortion care for many reasons, including under emergency circumstances. No matter someone’s reason for their abortion, they should be able to get the care they need in their community."

"No one should die because their doctor was questioning whether or not it was legal to intervene with lifesaving care because politicians or judges have decided that they know better than health care providers," she added. "We acknowledge that today’s decision means the fight for access to emergency abortion care will continue.”

In their ruling, the justices voted 6 to 3, with Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson writing that she would have found the federal law overrides Idaho’s strict ban and that she believed the Supreme Court should tackle the issue now, rather than sending it back to the lower court.

The liberal justices, along with conservative Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., all wrote or joined in concurring opinions. Three of the court’s conservatives, Justices Samuel Alito Jr., Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, dissented.

In his dissent, Justice Alito agreed the court should have ruled on the merits of the case.

“That question is as ripe for decision as it ever will be,” he wrote. “Apparently, the court has simply lost the will to decide the easy but emotional and highly politicized question that the case presents. That is regrettable.”

A broader decision in the Idaho case could affect more than a dozen states that have enacted near-total bans since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022.

Under Idaho law, abortion is illegal except in cases of incest, rape, some instances of nonviable pregnancies or when it is “necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman.” Doctors who perform abortions illegally could face criminal penalties, prison time and loss of their licenses.

More information

The Center for Reproductive Rights has more on abortion.

SOURCE: New York Times

What This Means For You

The Supreme Court seems set to rule that emergency abortion care is allowed, for now, in Idaho -- a state that has a near total abortion ban.

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