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AG Nessel Joins Multistate Coalition in Fight Against Idaho’s Radical Abortion Ban

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined a coalition of 24 attorneys general backing the Biden administration’s challenge to Idaho’s near-total ban on abortion. In an amicus brief filed in United States of America v. Idaho, the multistate coalition supported the U.S. government’s argument that the ban conflicts with the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), a federal law that requires doctors and hospitals to provide necessary abortion care to pregnant people in cases of medical emergencies. The coalition further argued that Idaho’s ban not only endangers the lives and health of pregnant individuals in the state but would also have serious repercussions on the health systems of other states.

“Regardless of state regulations, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) mandates that hospitals receiving Medicare funding must provide emergency abortion care when necessary,” Nessel said. “This federal legislation has long been interpreted to cover emergency medical conditions involving or affecting pregnancy for which necessary stabilizing treatment may include abortion. I stand with my colleagues in supporting the Biden Administration’s assertion that Idaho’s abortion ban must yield when pregnant women are in need of emergency abortion services.”

Every hospital in the United States that operates an emergency department and participates in Medicare is subject to EMTALA. Under the law, emergency departments are required to provide all patients who have an emergency medical condition with the treatment required to stabilize their condition. Under Idaho’s radical abortion ban, which came into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision overturning Roe v. Wade, healthcare providers would face criminal prosecution or lose their license for providing this medically necessary care.

In August 2022, the Biden administration successfully sued to block enforcement of the ban, arguing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho that the ban conflicts with protections afforded by EMTALA. Now, Idaho is appealing the district court’s decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The amicus brief by the multistate coalition backs the federal government’s case in the Ninth Circuit, arguing that:

  • Decades of federal guidance and court precedent have held that stabilizing treatment under EMTALA includes emergency abortion care, and states have relied on that determination to protect their residents' health and safety.
  • Preventing medical providers from performing abortions needed to treat emergency medical conditions threatens the health and lives of pregnant patients. Many pregnancy and miscarriage complications are emergency medical conditions requiring time-sensitive stabilizing treatment that can include abortion. In an emergency, any failure to provide, or delays in providing, necessary abortion care can put at risk the pregnant patient’s life or health.
  • If Idaho hospitals and providers do not provide the emergency abortion care required by EMTALA, patients will be forced to turn to out-of-state hospitals and providers, adding strain to other states’ emergency departments that are already struggling with overcrowding, long wait times, and staff shortages. The added strain will cause more delays and threaten the safety and health of all patients who need emergency care.

The amicus brief was led by the attorneys general of California and New York, who were joined by the attorneys general of Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

A copy of the brief is available here.


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