Federal judge partially block’s Idaho’s abortion law

A federal judge temporarily blocked part of Idaho's abortion "trigger" law following a challenge from the Justice Department which said it violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act. File Pool Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/UPI

Aug. 25 (UPI) — A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked part of a restrictive Idaho abortion law that was set to take effect Thursday.

U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled that the law, which does not provide an exception allowing abortion when a pregnant person’s health is at risk, violated a federal act requiring hospitals that participate in the federally funded Medicare program to provide medical care when a person’s life or health is at stake.

The law, which bans abortions except in cases involving incest, rape or danger to a pregnant person’s life can remain in place, but Winmill issued a preliminary injunction stating that a doctor cannot be punished for performing an abortion to protect the health of a pregnant patient.

“The State of Idaho will not suffer any real harm if the court issues the modest preliminary injunction the United States is requesting,” Winmill wrote in his ruling.

The Justice Department filed the lawsuit, which represented the first win for the Biden administration since the Supreme Court overturned the abortion protections provided in the landmark ruling in Roe vs. Wade.

“It’s not about the bygone constitutional right to an abortion,” Winmill wrote in his ruling. “This court is not grappling with that larger, more profound question. Rather, the court is called upon to address a far more modest issue — whether Idaho’s criminal abortion statute conflicts with a small but important corner of federal legislation. It does.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the lawsuit against the so-called “trigger” law that was passed long before the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, saying it would violate the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act.

Garland praised the court’s decision to partially block the law in a statement Wednesday.

“Today’s decision by the District Court for the District of Idaho ensures that women in the State of Idaho can obtain the emergency medical treatment to which they are entitled under federal law,” he said. “This includes abortion when that is the necessary treatment.”

Garland added that the Justice Department “will continue to use every tool at its disposal to defend the reproductive rights protected by federal law.”

Earlier Wednesday, a federal judge temporarily blocked a legal effort by the Biden administration stating that hospitals in Texas must perform abortion services under EMTALA.


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