Judge blocks Idaho’s abortion ban after DOJ lawsuit

A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked Idaho’s abortion ban from taking effect during medical emergencies, ruling that it conflicts with federal law.

U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill wrote that the state’s near total ban on abortion violates the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, a law that requires providers to offer medically stabilizing treatment in an emergency, even if that care is an abortion. 

Much of the abortion ban will take effect Thursday, but the state will not be allowed to prosecute anyone who is performing an abortion in an emergency medical situation while the lawsuit from the Justice Department is argued. 

Winmill granted a preliminary injunction preventing the enforcement of the law when abortion is necessary for emergency medical care, in line with the federal law. The block is effective immediately.

State law must yield to federal law where the two conflict, Winmill wrote in Wednesday’s filing.

“It’s not about the bygone constitutional right to an abortion. This Court is not grappling with that larger, more profound question,” Winmill wrote. “Rather, the Court is called upon to address a far more modest issue—whether Idaho’s criminal abortion statute conflicts with a small but important corner of federal legislation. It does.”

The ban was a so-called trigger law that was set to take effect once the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade with its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, handing the regulation of abortion over to individual states. 

Under the ban, abortion would be illegal after six weeks even in the case of a medical emergency or complication, with exceptions for rape, incest and saving the life of the mother, and Idaho doctors could be criminally prosecuted for performing the procedure.

The Justice Department filed suit over the Idaho ban earlier this month. 

“On the day Roe and Casey were overturned, we promised that the Justice Department would work tirelessly to protect and advance reproductive freedom,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement announcing the suit.   

“We will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that pregnant women get the emergency medical treatment to which they are entitled under federal law,” Garland added.

Updated: 9:08 p.m.

Tags Abortion bans Justice Department Merrick Garland

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