Statement on U.S. Supreme Court Decision on Emergency Medical Care

Today the U.S. Supreme Court released its decision in the second abortion access case this term, Idaho v. United States (combined with Moyle v. United States). In today’s decision, which was leaked yesterday, the Court dismissed the case, sending it back to the lower courts to resolve. 

While today’s decision to dismiss this case is imperfect and not the final word on this critical issue, it is a crucial development that restores the rights of pregnant people in Idaho to obtain emergency care in the state. When the Court originally decided to take this case in January, they allowed Idaho’s state ban to take effect. This meant that for six months high-risk pregnant patients in Idaho needing emergency abortion care had to be flown out of state to receive that care. That the anti-abortion Justices on the Court created such a dangerous medical situation before deciding they should not have taken the case in the first place is another example of anti-abortion officials playing games with people’s lives. 

EMTALA (Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act) was passed by Congress in 1986 as a bipartisan effort to protect patients in acute medical distress. Until anti-abortion special interest groups and politicians decided to target the law in their post-Dobbs efforts to ban all abortion, everywhere, EMTALA was considered an important safety net for patient care, in particular protecting vulnerable patients who lacked insurance coverage. By denying anti-abortion politicians in Idaho the ability, for now, to override the guidance, best practices, and advice of medical professionals, today’s decision is a temporary but important rebuke to these harmful policies, reminding all of us that pregnant people have rights, including the right to access emergency medical care.  

As with the recent favorable ruling in the FDA v. Hippocratic Alliance of Medicine, we know this is not the final say on this issue, nor does it address how political abortion bans are impacting patient care in other states. But today’s decision is a step towards allowing Idaho medical professionals to center patients and their needs, rather than having to consider anti-abortion politics as they determine the course of patient care. 

There is nothing radical or extreme about wanting to make personal decisions about our own bodies, healthcare, and safety. The fact that this anti-abortion law even made it to the highest court in the land is a signal that no restriction is too extreme or dangerous for lawmakers determined to ban abortion access. 

Today’s decision is another reminder of what is at stake for the elections this November. Voters in North Carolina and across the country must make our pro-abortion, pro-choice, pro-democracy voices heard on races up and down the ballot this fall. These attacks on our most basic, fundamental, and personal rights won’t stop until we take our pro-choice power to the polls. 

For background on this case, see our April 2024 statement.

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