Biden Admin Scores First Legal Win for Abortion Rights Since Roe Fell
President Joe Biden’s administration has scored its first legal victory on abortion rights since the US Supreme Court overruled the landmark Roe v. Wade case in June.
US District Judge B. Lynn Winmill blocked part of an Idaho law on Wednesday that would have made it illegal to perform an abortion on pregnant patients whose health is at risk.
The law, which will come into effect on Thursday, permits abortion in cases of rape, incest or when the woman’s life is in danger but doesn’t contain an exception allowing abortions where there is a serious risk to health.
The temporary injunction against part of Idaho’s law will be seen as a victory for the Biden administration as it works to protect abortion rights. In June, the Supreme Court found that there is no constitutional protection for abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
The Department of Justice had sued the state of Idaho. It argued that the abortion ban violates the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), a federal law that requires Medicare-funded hospitals to provide “stabilizing treatment” to patients, including abortion.
Winmill said in his ruling that the case was not about the right to an abortion but a question of whether state or federal law takes precedence.
“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.”
Idaho’s law makes performing an abortion in any “clinically diagnostic pregnancy” a felony that can be punished by up to five years in prison. The law allows those accused to argue in court that the abortion was necessary to avoid the death of the patient.
Winmill has issued a preliminary injunction that will prevent Idaho prosecuting anyone who performs an abortion in an emergency medical situations, but the lawsuit challenging Idaho’s law is still ongoing and will be resolved at a later date.
The Idaho attorney general’s office told the Associated Press (AP) they would not comment on Winmill’s ruling as the case is still going through the courts.
Newsweek has asked the White House for comment.
A federal judge in Texas took the opposite view in a ruling on Tuesday and temporarily blocked the federal government from enforcing guidance in the state about providing stabilizing treatment under EMTALA.
Texas had sued Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, arguing that EMTALA does not require doctors to perform abortions.
US District Judge James Wesley Hendrix said that EMTALA “is silent as to abortion” and that an abortion creates “emergency medical condition” for the fetus or embryo.
“Since the statute is silent on the question, the Guidance cannot answer how doctors should weigh risks to both a mother and her unborn child,” he said in his order.
“Nor can it, in doing so, create a conflict with state law where one does not exist. The Guidance was thus unauthorized,” Hendrix said.
The US Department of Health and Human Services is reviewing that decision and may take further steps.
Texas’ trigger law banning abortion will come into effect on Thursday, along with the Idaho ban and a similar law in Tennessee, which makes abortion illegal except to prevent death or serious injury to the woman.
The pair of rulings may indicate that the administration has a complicated path as Biden seeks to protect abortion rights. Upcoming midterm elections could prove a stern test of the administration’s efforts to safeguard abortion as questions remain about how the issue will influence voters.
- House provides legal shield for abortion seekers, providers | News
- Colorado Supreme Court weighs discipline for divorce attorney: 'I've never seen anything like that' | Subscriber-Only Content
- Mass shootings renew efforts to target gun manufacturers' legal shield
- Bauer-Kahan's Bill Creating Legal Shield for Abortion Heads to the Governor
- House gives legal shield to abortion seekers, providers | Boston