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Supreme Court will decide if states can ban lifesaving abortions

Vox: “Moyle v. United States should have been a very easy case. A federal law, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), requires nearly all hospitals to provide “such treatment as may be required to stabilize the medical condition” of “any individual” who arrives at the hospital’s ER with an “emergency medical condition.” Though the law does not specifically mention abortions, EMTALA is written in capacious terms — requiring covered hospitals to perform an emergency abortion when that is the appropriate treatment to resolve a patient’s medical emergency. And yet, last January, the Supreme Court effectively nullified EMTALA, at least for patients who require abortion. Moyle, which the Court will hear the last full week of April, asks whether this nullification should be made permanent. The case involves a conflict between the federal law and Idaho’s unusually restrictive anti-abortion statute, which permits physicians to perform an abortion when “necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman,” but not when a patient’s pregnancy only threatens to disable or seriously harm them. EMTALA, meanwhile, requires most hospitals to provide whatever care is necessary to stabilize a patient who is at risk of “serious impairment to bodily functions,” “serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part,” or other nonfatal consequences that are defined as medical emergencies by EMTALA. So, for example, if a patient’s uterus could be destroyed, but she is likely to survive if untreated, EMTALA requires hospitals to perform an abortion if terminating the pregnancy would stabilize the patient’s medical condition. When federal law conflicts with a state’s law, the Constitution provides that the federal law “shall be the supreme Law of the Land” — and thus the state law is “preempted.” EMTALA also contains a provision stating that state and local laws must give way “to the extent that the [state law] directly conflicts with a requirement of this section.” So, again, Moyle should be an easy case, and a federal district court ruled in 2022 that Idaho’s abortion ban must give way to EMTALA when a pregnant patient has a medical emergency that must be treated with an abortion. Last January, however, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked this district court’s order, reinstating Idaho’s sweeping abortion ban while the justices ponder the Moyle case. That’s a strong sign that, despite EMTALA’s clear text, the justices could permanently neutralize the federal law’s protections for people who must have an abortion to avoid catastrophic medical consequences. (No justice publicly dissented from this temporary order, but justices sometimes disagree with the Court’s orders but do not note their dissent.)..”

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