FFRF joins brief in Idaho emergency abortion care case before Supreme Court

photo of a protest featuring a white sign that reads "Keep Abortion Safe & Legal" with Legal underlined in red

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, with a coalition of 100-plus groups, is sounding in on a second abortion-related case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case deals with the rights of pregnant persons under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, also known as EMTALA. Passed nearly 40 years ago, the act requires hospitals to stabilize patients experiencing a medical emergency and is in conflict with Idaho’s draconian abortion limits.

The high court, which heard oral arguments earlier this week in a case threatening nationwide limits on a medication inducing abortion, will be hearing this case on April 24, and FFRF has signed on to a friend-of-the court brief filed today by the National Women’s Law Center.

The case involves a challenge of the Biden administration’s enforcement of the act in Idaho, where nearly all abortions are currently criminalized. The Biden administration sued Idaho in August 2022 to enforce EMTALA. A district court ruled in favor of the Biden administration and issued a preliminary injunction. A three-judge panel from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay of the injunction, which was put back in place by the full 9th Circuit. Idaho filed an emergency stay with the Supreme Court.

The high court then not only took the extraordinary action of issuing a stay — meaning the state can enforce its abortion ban in medical emergencies while the lawsuit is pending — but agreed to hear the case before the appeals court review was final.

Notoriously, Idaho’s attorney general has hired the Christian nationalist Alliance Defending Freedom to represent Idaho. An ADF attorney, Erin Hawley, who is married to the Christian nationalist Sen. Josh Hawley, argued the mifepristone case on Tuesday and later remarked that the decision was in the hands of “God.”

“In the wake of Dobbs, health care professionals in abortion-ban states fear that providing medically necessary emergency obstetric care (including care required by EMTALA) may invite criminal prosecution, among other severe consequences,” reads the brief filed today that FFRF and more than 100 other organizations have signed. “This fear is driving providers out of already underserved areas.”

Since the Idaho abortion restriction was passed in 2020, obstetric care is in crisis in the state, with physicians fleeing and two major maternity and labor wards closing in 2023, forcing some pregnant Idahoans to travel out of state for pregnancy-related care and causing disproportionate hardship for underserved groups, including those with low-incomes, teenagers and Idaho’s Black, Indigenous People of Color citizens.

The brief cites horror-story case histories involving patients in the United States denied emergency care from hospitals despite life-threatening, nonviable pregnancies.

“The challenge by the state of Idaho seeking to deny health- and life-saving care to pregnant patients puts the lie to any claims by anti-abortionists of being ‘pro-life,’” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “And the facts, including the Alliance Defending Freedom’s inappropriate role in representing the state of Idaho, also reveal the religious motivation behind Idaho’s crusade to deny pregnant patients necessary medical care and their rights under federal law.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with 40,000 members and several chapters across the country. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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