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US Supreme Court allows emergency abortions in Idaho for now in a limited ruling


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.

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.

Laurie Woodward Garcia holds a placard during a “die-in” protest in support of reproductive rights and emergency abortion care. On Thursday, the US Supreme Court ruled that emergency abortions are allowed in Idaho for now. Photo: Reuters

The justices found that the court should not have got 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.

“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,” US President Joe Biden said in a statement. “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 healthcare 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,” Biden added, referring to the 2022 decision that reversed the 1973 precedent that had recognised a constitutional right to abortion.

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 healthcare law does not trump a state ban on abortion, and the New Orleans-based 5th US 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.

Additional reporting by Reuters



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