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Supreme Court allows Idaho to temporarily offer emergency medical abortions

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On Thursday, the Supreme Court officially dismissed an appeal connected to Idaho’s abortion ban, preventing it from being enforced until it the case is heard in the lower courts. The decision was briefly posted on the Supreme Court’s website before it was removed on Wednesday, with a spokesperson confirming it was “inadvertently” released.

The 5-4 decision reinstates a lower court ruling that temporarily allowed hospitals in the state to perform emergency abortions to protect the life of the mother, and the health of the mother. Per NPR, three of the court’s conservatives — Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — sided with the three liberals — Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson — in dismissing the appeal from Idaho without considering the core issues in the case. Dissenting were Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Clarence Thomas.

President Joe Biden praised the dismissal, saying in a White House statement: “Today’s Supreme Court order ensures that women in Idaho can access the emergency medical care they need while the case returns to the lower courts. No woman should be denied care, made to wait until she’s near death, or forced to flee her home state just to receive the healthcare she needs.”

The opinion did not permanently resolve whether Idaho acted within its rights, or whether the state law is pre-empted by EMTALA. Rather, by a 6-3 vote, the court retreated from a previous ruling that had temporarily allowed Idaho’s law to take effect, meaning that emergency abortions were illegal in the state if they were to save a mother’s health, but not her life. Idaho’s Attorney General Raul Labrador said in a statement that the court did allow most of the law to take effect and that he believes once heard, the full law will be implemented: “after listening to the [Justice Department’s] best argument to defend the Biden administration’s legally untenable position, that Idaho’s Defense of Life Act is not preempted by [federal law] and will be vindicated in full.”

Editorial credit: Fedor Selivanov /