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DOJ Alleges Idaho Abortion Law Violates EMTALA


emergency room emtala

On Aug. 2, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed suit against the state of Idaho to block a state abortion law set to take effect on Aug. 25, claiming that it violates the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act of 1986 (EMTALA).

Under EMTALA, a hospital that receives Medicare funds must provide treatment to patients who present to the hospital’s emergency department with an “emergency medical condition.” The DOJ explains that “emergency medical conditions” under EMTALA “include not just conditions that present risks to life but also those that place a patient’s ‘health’ in ‘serious jeopardy’ or risk ‘serious impairment to bodily functions’ or ‘serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.’”

The DOJ’s complaint targets Idaho Code § 18-622, which would criminalize abortions in the state. Under the proposed statute, any healthcare professional who performs, attempts to perform or assists in performing an abortion or attempted abortion will face imprisonment and professional license suspension or permanent license revocation. The statute does not contain any exceptions to the felony abortion provision but does include the following potential defenses a healthcare provider may use if charged: (1) the abortion is performed because the physician believes that it is necessary to prevent the pregnant woman’s death; (2) the abortion was performed to provide the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive; or (3) the pregnant woman is a minor and the physician is provided a copy of a police report that the pregnant woman reported the act of rape or incest to law enforcement.

Read the full alert.


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