Supreme Court Blocks Biden Admin’s Attempt to Force Idaho ER Doctors to Perform Abortions

SOCIAL VALUES: Dr. Bhavik Kumar, 31, of Austin, left, is asked a question by a patient (who asked not to be named) during her state mandated ultrasound at Whole Woman's Health in Fort Worth, Texas, Friday, June 3, 2016. Women in Texas are required to have a sonogram by the state that they must be offered the chance to view, although they can refuse to look. There is then a required 24 hour waiting period after the initial consultation. Some women must now travel long distances twice in order to complete the procedure. The woman, who was 6-weeks pregnant and has a previous child, took her sonogram photograph home with her and scheduled the abortion procedure for the next day. Kumar is one of the few abortion providers left in Texas. In order to serve the women who depend on a dwindling number of providers in Texas he commutes from Austin to San Antonio and also to Fort Worth. Whole Woman's Health is one of few abortion clinics left in Texas amid a state legislative crackdown on the procedure. “We know the need is there,” says Kumar, “abortion is very common and there are few people doing this work in Texas. I feel morally and ethically obligated to do this work.” “I think of all the women who will face a life changing circumstance if I need to take time off,” says Kumar, “it’s a lot of pressure.” Pressure for him and for the other two other doctors who work in the clinics. At 5am Kumar will leave his apartment in Austin in order to drive to Fort Worth, a three hour drive at dawn that is draining but necessary, after another doctor in Fort Worth lost his hospital admitting privileges due to a temporary closure at his hospital in the region. Requirements such as hospital admitting privileges, hospital surgical standards, state mandated ultrasounds, and a 24 hour period between consult and procedure hurt women’s access to care, according to Kumar. “Women have already made up their minds before they see us,” says Kumar, “the restrictions only make it more difficult for women to access their choice.” Whole Woman’s Health took their case against Texas to the Supreme Court. On Monday June 27, 2016, the Supreme Court issued its strongest defense of abortion rights in a quarter-century, striking down Texas' widely replicated rules that sharply reduced abortion clinics in the nation's second-most-populous state. By a 5-3 vote, the justices rejected the state's arguments that its 2013 law and follow-up regulations were needed to protect women's health. The rules required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and forced clinics to meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery. The clinics that challenged the law argued that it was merely a veiled attempt to make it harder for women to get abortions by forcing the closure of more than half the roughly 40 clinics that operated before the law took effect. Texas is among 10 states with similar admitting-privileges requirements, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. The requirement is in effect in most of Texas, Missouri, North Dakota and Tennessee. It is on hold in Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. The hospital-like outpatient surgery standards are in place in Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and are blocked in Tennessee and Texas, according to the center. Separate lawsuits are pending over admitting-privileges laws in Louisiana and Mississippi, the other states covered by the 5th circuit. The laws are on hold in both states, and a panel of federal appellate judges has concluded the Mississippi law probably is unconstitutional because it would force the only abortion clinic in the state to close. Texas had 41 abortion facilities in 2013, when the Republican-controlled Legislature approved the law. It has 19 today. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Published January 6, 2024

The Supreme Court on Friday allowed Idaho’s law banning abortions except to save the life of the mother to go into effect amid a challenge from the pro-abortion Biden administration.

The High Court also agreed to hear the case in April, which surrounds the Biden administration’s attempt to require emergency room doctors to perform abortions under its new interpretation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act of 1986 (EMTALA). After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which had invented a constitutional right to abortion, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued guidance claiming that EMTALA requires doctors to perform abortions on patients in emergency rooms when it is “the stabilizing treatment necessary” to help in a medical emergency. Under the guidance, hospitals not in compliance could lose funding and the ability to participate in Medicaid.

After the HHS issued its guidance in July of 2022, the Biden administration sued the State of Idaho over its pro-life law, alleging that it is not in compliance with the federal government’s reading of EMTALA. A district court blocked the state’s pro-life law, an order which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit stayed. But within days, the en banc Ninth Circuit vacated its panel’s stay opinion and granted en banc review. The State of Idaho then appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

Idaho is arguing that Congress did not write EMTALA to require emergency room physicians to perform abortions. Instead, the state is arguing that the law’s original intent was to prevent “patient dumping,” when hospitals refuse to treat patients who are unable to pay for emergency services. The law, as written by Congress, explicitly requires hospitals to provide stabilizing care for both pregnant women and their unborn babies in emergencies, regardless of whether they are able to pay for services, and makes no mention of abortion.

Idaho’s emergency application to the High Court reads{

EMTALA does not even mention abortion. That statutory silence alone is powerful evidence that Congress did not intend to preempt state abortion laws, particularly given EMTALA’s savings clause. It would be odd indeed if Congress had tucked authority to negate the enforcement of state abortion laws in a relatively obscure provision of the Medicare Act.

And of course, President Reagan and Congress enacted no such thing in 1986. Rather, the United States seeks to discover in a long-extant statute an unheralded power to regulate abortion, claiming for itself a power to address one of the most contentious social, political, and cultural decisions without a word to that effect from Congress.

The United States is arguing that Idaho’s pro-life law — which makes it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion unless it is necessary to prevent her death — is narrower than its reading of EMTALA. It should be noted that Idaho law does not consider removal of a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy as elective abortion.



RELATED: Biden blasts Supreme Court decision allowing Idaho to enforce ‘dangerous’ abortion ban

Published January 5, 2024

President Biden on Friday railed against the Supreme Court’s decision to allow Idaho to enact certain provisions in its near-total abortion ban, arguing it is a catalyst for Republican officials to “continue to jeopardize women’s health.”

“Today’s Supreme Court order allows Idaho’s extreme abortion ban to go back into effect and denies women critical emergency abortion care required by federal law,” Biden said in a statement shared by the White House.

“The overturning of Roe v. Wade has enabled Republican elected officials to pursue dangerous abortion bans like this one that continue to jeopardize women’s health, force them to travel out of state for care, and make it harder for doctors to provide care, including in an emergency,” he added.

His comments come after the high court, in an unsigned order on Friday, granted a request by the state to overrule an injunction issued by a federal appeals court that prevented prosecution of doctors that performed abortions in emergency circumstances that weren’t necessarily life-threatening.

The Defense of Life Act took affect after the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health decision ended the constitutional right to an abortion in 2022. Under the law, abortions are banned in nearly all situations — but there is an exception to prevent the mother’s death.

The Biden administration sued over the ban, claiming it violated laws that protect health care providers that perform lifesaving abortion services in emergencies.

“These bans are also forcing doctors to leave Idaho and other states because of laws that interfere with their ability to care for their patients,” Biden said Friday in his statement. “This should never happen in America.”

The court is expected to hear oral arguments for the case in April and to make a decision in June. The provisions of the ban will be enforced until then.

In his statement, the president reiterated his administration’s vow to defend reproductive rights and urged Congress to act.



RELATED: Texas emergency rooms not bound by Biden admin’s guidance on emergency abortion, federal court rules

Federal appeals court sides with Texas, which claimed the Biden administration was overstepping its authority on abortion

Published January 2, 2024

A federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that the U.S. government does not have the authority to force Texas emergency room doctors to perform abortions if necessary to stabilize emergency room patients.

Reuters reported that the ruling sided with Texas in a lawsuit claiming the Biden administration was overstepping its authority on abortion.

A panel with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously on the matter as several lawsuits pertaining to when abortions can be performed in states with abortion ban exceptions for medical emergencies make their way through the courts.

In July 2022, the Biden administration issued guidance saying the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), which is a federal law that governs emergency rooms, can require abortion if it is necessary to stabilize a patient with a medical emergency, despite abortion being required in the state where the emergency room is located.

The guidance was issued shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling in June 2022.

The overturning of Roe v. Wade turned power over to the states to allow, limit or ban abortion altogether.

The ruling came in the court’s opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which centered on a Mississippi law that banned abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

A lower court agreed, in August 2022, that there was no mention in EMTALA on what a doctor should do if there is a conflict between the health of a mother and the unborn child. The court also agreed that the Texas abortion ban “fills that void” by including narrow exceptions to save a mother’s life or prevent serious bodily injury in some cases.

Writing for the 5th Circuit Court panel, Judge Kurt Engelhardt said EMTALA includes a requirement to deliver an unborn child, and it was up to doctors to balance the mother’s medical needs, as well as those for the fetus, while complying with state abortion laws.





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