A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked part of Idaho’s strict abortion law, which is scheduled to go into effect Thursday, giving the Biden administration a narrow courtroom victory in its first lawsuit to protect reproductive rights since the Supreme Court ruled. v. Wade overthrown.
U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill’s ruling prevents Idaho from enforcing the new law when it violates federal guidelines on emergency hospital abortion care.
“The state of Idaho will suffer no real harm if the court issues the modest injunction requested by the United States,” Winmill wrote.
Attorney General Merrick Garland this month announced the lawsuit against Idaho, arguing the state’s law violates a federal statute known as the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA, which was enacted in 1986. to ensure that patients receive adequate emergency medical care.
That law requires doctors to provide the emergency medical treatment needed to stabilize anyone entering an emergency room. “This includes abortion, when that’s the necessary treatment,” Garland said at the time.
In a statement, Garland said the judge’s ruling would protect a woman’s ability to receive the emergency medical treatment she needs, as guaranteed by federal law, which “includes abortion if necessary treatment.”
“As the court has ruled, a state law that attempts to prevent a hospital from meeting its obligations under EMTALA violates federal law and the supremacy clause of the US Constitution,” Garland said.
NBC News has contacted the Idaho governor’s office and the state’s attorney general’s office for comment.
Winmill heard arguments Monday about the Justice Department’s request for a preliminary injunction and said he would issue a written order by Wednesday. The state law is still scheduled to go into effect Thursday, minus the provision Winmill said the state cannot enforce for the time being.
While the state claimed that its law did not violate EMTALA, Winmill found his argument unconvincing, “because it failed to properly consider the astonishingly broad scope of its law,” which he says “crimes all abortions.”
“It is impossible to meet both statutes,” Winmill wrote. “[W]here federal law requires the provision of care and state law penalizes that care, it is impossible to comply with both laws. Point.”
The Idaho ruling came just hours after a setback for the Texas government, where a federal judge banned the state from directing the Department of Health and Human Services, which requires hospitals to provide emergency abortions to women.
Garland said the Justice Department disagreed with that ruling and was “considering appropriate next steps”.
The lawsuits unfold as electoral politics indicate that many voters are likely to make abortion a top priority in November’s midterm elections.
Kansas voters this month overwhelmingly rejected a proposed state constitutional amendment that aimed to remove the language that guarantees reproductive rights.
In a special election in New York, Democrat Pat Ryan on Tuesday defeated Republican Marc Molinaro in a race in which Ryan made abortion rights a key campaign theme. The Hudson Valley congressional district has served as a national whistleblower — it voted about 2 percentage points for Biden in 2020 after supporting former Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama in their successful campaigns.
Daniel Barnes and Dareh Gregorian Chant contributed.