U.S. Attorney Merrick Garland announced that the Justice Department has filed suit against the state of Idaho’s law restricting abortion access.
The Idaho law is patterned after the Texas-passed SB8, which bans abortions six weeks after conception when it is believed that the baby's heart is beating. Alabama’s law is more all-encompassing than the Idaho law, but the Justice Department went after Idaho.
1819 News talked with Alabama Center for Law and Liberty President Matt Clark about the federal suit against the people of Idaho.
“Initially, I wondered why the Justice Department sued Idaho first, especially since there are stricter bans on abortion throughout the nation,” Clark said.
“But I think I know why: the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has jurisdiction over Idaho. For decades, the Ninth Circuit has been the most notoriously liberal appellate court in the country. So, as the Biden administration desperately seeks to score a win for abortion, it picked its first battle based on the prospects of getting an activist panel.”
The Justice Department lawsuit claims that the Idaho law is in violation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA). According to the National Library of Medicine, EMTALA is a United States Congressional Act passed as part of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) of 1986.
It is commonly referred to as a federal “anti-dumping law” that prevents hospitals from denying or limiting treatment to patients based on their insurance status or ability to pay and transfer them to other facilities. Since the law was passed, it has had other far-reaching influences on various aspects of the healthcare system, including emergency medical services.
Tuscaloosa attorney Luisa Reyes explained the Justice Department's position.
“With the Constitution being the supreme law of the land, it has been established that where federal and state laws conflict, the federal law trumps the state law, which indicates that where the federal EMTALA and the Idaho law conflict, EMTALA should be upheld as the standard," explained Reyes.
“While I have not looked at the EMTALA, I wonder why I have not heard of the Justice Department ever suing under this law before,” Clark said. “It sounds to me like the Biden administration is desperately trying to find some authority that can support its fight for abortion. As the OSHA-vaccine-mandate case and the EPA case demonstrate, the Biden administration is not doing well when it comes to such cases.”
Reyes said that the DOJ may be trying to craft an individual rights argument with this suit.
Reyes said, “The disappearing standard of the undue burden being placed on the woman seeking medical care that was set by Reagan appointee, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, seems to be exemplified by the Idaho law. To require the victim of rape or incest to provide a copy of a police report to the physician who would perform the procedure is placing the burden entirely on the woman.
“In many cases, police reports aren't immediately available and they are often accompanied by a fee. It is also not inconceivable that many victims will prefer to seek other means of treatment in order to avoid naming the perpetrator. Which further compromises the health of the victim.”
Given the recent overturning of the controversial Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, Reyes was skeptical that this track would ultimately prove successful.
“The current makeup of the Supreme Court seems to be leaning more towards a state's rights line of argument with regards to the balance between federal and state laws,” Reyes said. “So this legal challenge to the Idaho law has the potential to really establish new precedent with regards to federal versus state issues.”
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