The Supreme Court has announced that it would pause a lower court decision holding that states may not bar hospitals from providing abortions to patients in emergency circumstances and set the case down for oral argument in April.
This extraordinary development comes after the Department of Justice (DOJ) challenged an Idaho abortion ban only to the extent it barred patients from receiving abortions at hospitals in emergency circumstances. The DOJ argued that the ban was preempted by the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, commonly known as EMTALA. A lower court ruled in favour of the DOJ, holding that EMTALA preempts Idaho’s ban to the extent it prevents hospitals from providing care in emergency circumstances.
In a case raising similar issues, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled earlier this week that EMTALA does not give patients a right to abortions in emergency circumstances and therefore does not provide a defense to prosecution to doctors who provide abortion care to patients facing medical emergencies.
In response to the Supreme Court’s announcement, Jennifer Dalven, director of the American Civl lIberties Union (ACLU) Reproductive Freedom Project, issued the following statement:
“Today’s announcement by the Supreme Court and the extraordinary lengths politicians will go to prevent pregnant people from getting care necessary to preserve their health and lives should leave all Americans very frightened. Overturning Roe was just the beginning. Now anti-abortion politicians have brazenly gone to the Supreme Court arguing that they have the right to prevent people from getting the care they need even when their health and their very lives are at stake. That is astonishing. Let’s be very clear, the result will be that we will see more women like Kate Cox from Texas who was forced to flee her home state to get the critical care she needed. Other women won’t have that option, and some will die as a result of the abortion bans.
“The American voters have shown time and again that they don’t want the government to make these personal medical decisions for them and they certainly won’t stand idly by while politicians deny them and their loved ones critical care in medical emergencies.”
* Read the Supreme Court’s order here.