The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether hospitals can perform abortions in emergency situations, even in states that have near-total bans.
The justices said they will hear arguments from Idaho officials who say the state should be allowed to fully enforce a law that bans all abortions except when necessary to save the mother’s life.
The court, without explanation, said the law could take effect in the meantime, blocking a lower court judge’s order that had ensured hospitals could perform the procedure in medical emergencies.
The case marks one of the Supreme Court’s first abortion tests since its 2022 ruling overturned the constitutional right established in Roe v. 1973 Wade. The high court, in its current term, is already considering how available a widely used abortion pill will be, reviewing a ruling that would ban mail-order prescriptions and require in-person doctor visits.
The Supreme Court said it will hear arguments on the Idaho dispute in April.him, meaning a ruling is likely at the end of June. In agreeing to hear the case, the justices took the unusual step of bypassing the federal appeals court level and saying they will directly review a federal trial judge’s ruling.
President Joe Biden’s administration maintains that Idaho’s law should defer to a federal emergency care law, which requires hospitals that receive Medicare dollars to provide “necessary stabilizing treatment” to patients. The 1988 law, known as the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), was designed to prevent private hospitals from turning away indigent patients.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill’s August 2022 order prohibited Idaho from enforcing its criminal ban against hospitals and doctors who perform abortions to protect against a serious risk to the mother’s health. Republican officials, including Idaho Attorney General Raul Labrador and House Speaker Mike Moyle, are challenging Winmill’s order.
Lower courts have been divided on the issue. The 5th Circuit, based in New Orleans, rejected similar arguments and allowed Texas to continue to fully enforce its abortion ban.