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US: Judge blocks Idaho abortion ban for medical emergencies

A district judge has ruled that federal law trumps the Idaho's near-total ban on abortions

Deutsche Welle Published 25.08.22, 01:05 PM
The strict abortion ban in Idaho has been halted for the time being in medical emergency cases

The strict abortion ban in Idaho has been halted for the time being in medical emergency cases Deutsche Welle

A US federal judge has stopped the state of Idaho from enforcing a strict ban on abortions in medical emergencies.

US District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled on Wednesday that Idaho authorities cannot prosecute anyone who performs an abortion in an emergency medical situation.


He said that the state's near-total ban on abortions would conflict with the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor (EMTALA) Act, a federal law that ensures patients can receive access to "stabilizing care." This includes cases where a patient risks a serious impairment to their bodily functions unless their pregnancy is terminated.

"One cannot imagine the anxiety and fear [a pregnant woman] will experience if her doctors feel hobbled by an Idaho law that does not allow them to provide the medical care necessary to preserve her health and life," Winmill wrote.

In a statement, US Attorney General Merrick Garland added: "The Department of Justice will continue to use every tool at its disposal to defend the reproductive rights protected by federal law."

Opposite ruling in Texas

Meanwhile, a day earlier in Texas, US District Judge James Wesley Hendrix ruled that the Department of Health and Human Services went too far by issuing guidance that the same federal law, the EMTALA Act, guaranteed abortion care despite Texas' ban on the procedure.

He said that the federal directive to offer medical abortions to patients whose health is in danger "discards the requirement to consider the welfare of unborn children when determining how to stabilize a pregnant woman."

Hendrix claimed that performing an abortion creates an "emergency medical condition'' in the fetus or embryo.

Legal experts said the opposite rulings in Idaho and Texas could, if upheld on appeal, force the Supreme Court to wade back into the debate.

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