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America's high court allows emergency abortions in Idaho for now

Washington — The Supreme Court cleared the way Thursday for Idaho hospitals to provide emergency abortions for now in a procedural ruling that left key questions unanswered and could mean the issue ends up before the conservative-majority court again soon.

The ruling came a day after an opinion was briefly posted on the court's website accidentally and quickly taken down, but not before it was obtained by Bloomberg News.

The final opinion appears largely similar to the draft released early. It reverses the court's earlier order that had allowed an Idaho abortion ban to go into effect, even in medical emergencies.

It does not resolve the issues at the heart of the case, meaning the same justices who voted to overturn the constitutional right to abortion could soon be again considering when doctors can provide abortion in medical emergencies.

The premature release marked the second time in two years that an abortion ruling went out early, though in slightly different circumstances. The court’s seismic ruling ending the constitutional right to abortion was leaked to Politico.

The ruling came in a case filed against Idaho by the Biden administration, which argued that doctors must be allowed to provide emergency abortions under a federal law when a pregnant woman faces serious health risks.

Idaho had pushed back, arguing that its law does provide an exception to save the life of a pregnant patient and federal law doesn't require expanded exceptions.

Statement from President Joe Biden on Moyle v. United States

Today’s Supreme Court order ensures that women in Idaho can access the emergency medical care they need while this case returns to the lower courts. No woman should be denied care, made to wait until she’s near death, or forced to flee her home state just to receive the health care she needs. This should never happen in America. Yet, this is exactly what is happening in states across the country since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
State abortion bans are also forcing doctors to leave Idaho and other states. In January, I heard heartbreaking testimony from Dr. Kylie Cooper, a physician who cared for patients with high-risk pregnancies in Idaho. After practicing medicine under Idaho’s extreme abortion ban—which went into effect after Roe v. Wade was overturned—Dr. Cooper made the difficult decision to uproot her family, leave the community she loved, and move to a different state. Because of the state ban, and for the first time in her career, she was unable to offer the care her patients with certain pregnancy complications desperately needed.
Doctors should be able to practice medicine. Patients should be able to get the care they need. Instead, Dr. Cooper’s story is the reality for doctors and the women they care for since Roe v. Wade was overturned. And make no mistake: this is all part of Republican elected officials’ extreme and dangerous agenda to ban abortion nationwide, and put women’s health and lives at risk.
The stakes could not be higher and the contrast could not be clearer. My Administration is committed to defending reproductive freedom and maintains our long-standing position that women have the right to access the emergency medical care they need.  Vice President Harris and I will continue to fight for a woman’s right to make deeply personal health care decisions. And we will continue to fight to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade in federal law, for all women in every state across the country.

Doctors in Idaho said that the law wasn't clear on when they could provide abortions in emergencies, forcing them to airlift pregnant women to other states for emergency care on several occasions since the high court had allowed the ban to go into effect in January.

The justices found that the court should not have gotten involved in the case so quickly, and a 6-3 majority reinstated a lower court order that had allowed hospitals in the state to perform emergency abortions to protect a pregnant patient’s health.

The opinion means the Idaho case will continue to play out in lower courts, and could end up before the Supreme Court again. It doesn't answer key questions about whether doctors can provide emergency abortions elsewhere, a pressing issue as most Republican-controlled states have moved to restrict the procedure in the two years since the high court overturned Roe v. Wade.

In a similar case, the state of Texas also argued that federal health care law does not trump a state ban on abortion and the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the state.

The Idaho ruling doesn't appear to affect that finding. The Biden administration has appealed the case in Texas, leaving another avenue for the issue to appear before the high court. The justices are unlikely to even consider whether to take up the Texas case before the fall.

Copyright Associated Press

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