Statement on Today’s Abortion Case at the U.S. Supreme Court

Today the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a second abortion access case this term, Idaho v. United States (combined with Moyle v. United States). The legal argument at the center of this case is whether Idaho’s abortion ban supersedes the federal law EMTALA (Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act), which requires that all hospitals receiving federal funding provide basic stabilizing treatment to every patient presenting in their emergency departments. Since there are instances when that stabilizing treatment might include an abortion, Idaho, and other states with abortion bans like Texas, are trying to deny that care without jeopardizing their federal funding. 

As we have seen time and again when it comes to abortion rights, and especially since the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, hyper-partisan judges have repeatedly ignored legal precedent in their ideological rush to restrict and ban abortion. EMTALA was passed in 1986 in response to the practice of hospitals “dumping” vulnerable patients to other facilities. However, in their zeal to push an unpopular and minority political viewpoint, anti-abortion lawmakers and organizations now want the U.S. Supreme Court justices to ignore this law and legal precedent that was put in place to protect the fundamental rights of people to access healthcare, no matter where they live. 

The anti-abortion ideology at the heart of this case is abortion must never be considered healthcare, a dangerous and extremist belief at odds with science and medicine. Anti-abortion politicians continue to insert themselves into exam rooms to try and override the knowledge and experience of doctors and other medical professionals. The impacts of allowing this argument to stand are devastating to pregnant patients and their families. This is particularly dangerous for patients of color, Indigenous patients, rural patients, and patients living on low incomes, who already suffer poor health outcomes in our inequitable health system. 

Prior to EMTALA, patients were far too often discriminated against in our emergency care system, often because they could not pay. Pregnant patients were included in that group, with numerous, often devastating stories of patients about to go into labor being turned away from hospitals, prompting bipartisan Congressional approval of this law. Like the recent re-emergence of Arizona’s 1864 anti-abortion law and the national Comstock Act (1873), the anti-abortion players in today’s case aim to take us back to a time when fewer people had full and protected rights in our legal system, and discrimination was implicitly tolerated. 

However, even with EMTALA in place, since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe we have heard numerous stories about the harms and emergencies arising from the confusion of physicians and hospitals about what they can and cannot do under vague and overreaching state abortion bans. This includes a devastating story from North Carolina, in which a pregnant woman was unable to obtain care from a hospital despite complaining of stomach pain. The patient was not told of the risks of leaving without being stabilized. When the woman left to go to another hospital, she gave birth in the car to a baby that later died.  

People across the country have repeatedly shown that we are united in our desire to provide safety and support for pregnant people. We have been horrified by the stories of bleeding patients being told to go home, to wait in the cars until they became worse, or who were given staff prayers and well-wishes rather than actual healthcare. Today’s case at the Supreme Court is another example of anti-abortion politicians and organizations turning to a politically stacked judiciary to do their ideological bidding, rather than representing the will of the people. 

We expect the ruling in this case to come down sometime in June, within six months of the election. While we are limited in what we can do to influence Supreme Court rulings, voters in North Carolina and across the country can make our pro-abortion voices heard on races up and down the ballot in November. We will not stop fighting for abortion access until we have achieved true reproductive freedom for all. 

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