Two Lawsuits, in Texas and Idaho, Highlight Fight Over Emergency Medicine Law

In the weeks after the Supreme Court dismantled a constitutional right to abortion in 2022 and returned the issue of access to the states, a new series of court battles began.

After the Biden administration announced it would protect access to abortion under emergency situations through a decades-old federal law, conservative states pushed back, leading to dueling lawsuits in Texas and Idaho.

Those cases created a divide among federal courts, known as a circuit split. It intensified pressure on the Supreme Court to settle whether the law, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, pre-empts state abortion bans, shielding doctors who perform emergency abortions in efforts to stabilize the health of a pregnant woman.

After Roe fell, the Department of Health and Human Services issued guidance to hospitals, including those in states with abortion bans, that federal law mandated that pregnant women be allowed to receive abortions in emergency rooms so long as doctors believed the procedures were required for “stabilizing treatment.”

In July 2022, days after the Biden administration announced it would use the federal law to ensure abortion access in some emergency situations, Texas’ state attorney general, Ken Paxton, sued. The administration’s interpretation of the federal law, he said, would “force abortions” in Texas hospitals.

In the complaint, Mr. Paxton accused the administration of trying to defy the Supreme Court’s ruling. “President Biden is flagrantly disregarding the legislative and democratic process — and flouting the Supreme Court’s ruling before the ink is dry,” he wrote.

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