The Justice Department has opened a new front in the abortion wars

The department argued in its complaint that the restrictions violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, a federal law better known as EMTALA. This law defines the minimum level of emergency care that hospitals must provide when receiving Medicare funds, which almost all do. His language calls for “stabilizing treatment” from doctors when a patient’s health is “at serious risk” or lack of care could result in permanent injury.

“Idaho has criminalized performing abortions in these circumstances, even when a physician has determined that abortion is the necessary stabilizing treatment for a patient’s medical emergency,” the department said. In cases where federal and state law conflict, the constitution’s priority clause generally provides that federal law takes precedence over conflicting state law.

As a result, invoking EMTALA is one of the few cases in which the Biden administration can substantively roll back a state’s abortion ban thereafter dobbs, albeit under limited circumstances. “Federal law is clear: Patients have the right to stabilize emergency departments in hospitals regardless of where they live,” Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services, said in a statement when the lawsuit was announced. “Women shouldn’t have to be close to death to be cared for.”

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