Supreme Court briefly allowed abortions in Idaho due to a leaked opinion

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The US Supreme Court inadvertently disclosed a significant opinion on abortion rights, hinting at its readiness to overturn parts of Idaho’s near-total ban. Initially published on the court’s website and swiftly removed, the leaked document revealed that justices are inclined to rule against Idaho’s denial of emergency abortions to women whose health is at risk. The court clarified that the opinion was published “inadvertently and briefly,” with the final decision pending official release.

This development follows two years after the landmark decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the ruling that established a national right to abortion access. Since then, a patchwork of state-level abortion laws has emerged, particularly in conservative states like Idaho, where restrictions on abortion have tightened. Idaho is among 14 states that prohibit abortion in all stages of pregnancy, albeit with narrow exceptions aimed primarily at saving the pregnant person’s life.

Legal arguments defending Idaho’s stringent ban assert that it allows abortions only in cases where the pregnant person’s life is in danger, maintaining that this stance does not conflict with federal law. The leaked court opinion, disclosed in full by Bloomberg, suggests a potential 6-3 decision against the Supreme Court’s rapid intervention in the Idaho case. Justices Amy Coney Barrett, John Roberts, and Brett Kavanaugh argued that the court’s preemptive involvement was premature, citing ongoing developments in public and legal discourse on abortion.

According to the leaked document, the court is poised to reinstate an order permitting Idaho hospitals to perform emergency abortions for the protection of patients’ health. If confirmed, the case would proceed to a federal appeals court for further deliberation.

However, one of the court’s liberal justices, Ketanji Brown Jackson, voiced reservations in her opinion, emphasizing the need for a definitive ruling rather than merely returning the case to lower courts. She criticized the delay caused by the court’s actions, highlighting the precarious position of pregnant individuals experiencing emergency medical conditions, whose access to necessary care remains uncertain.

Upon the accidental publication of the ruling, pro-abortion advocacy groups cautiously expressed optimism. The Pro-Choice Caucus of the US Congress welcomed the potential step forward in ensuring access to emergency abortion care, urging the Supreme Court to affirm and uphold federal law in its final decision. Alexis McGill Johnson, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood, stressed the critical nature of safeguarding patients’ access to abortion care in emergencies, warning of catastrophic consequences if this right is not upheld.

The Biden administration had previously challenged Idaho’s near-total abortion ban in 2022, with Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra arguing against the requirement for women to be near death to receive care. In response, Idaho contended that federal law, specifically the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), does not supersede state law. Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America criticized the administration’s lawsuit as a publicity stunt aimed at spreading misinformation about abortion laws, asserting that pregnant women can receive necessary emergency care under pro-life regulations across all 50 states.

During April arguments, the Supreme Court justices appeared divided on the Idaho case. The leaked document indicated a sympathetic stance among most conservative justices towards Idaho’s contention that doctors should not be compelled to violate state law due to EMTALA requirements. In contrast, liberal justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ketanji Brown Jackson expressed skepticism regarding Idaho’s ability to deny abortions in cases of serious health risks under EMTALA.

RThe Associated Press underscored the practical implications of Idaho’s abortion law, citing instances where at least six pregnant women required emergency airlifts out of the state since its enforcement in January, highlighting the critical challenges faced by pregnant individuals seeking urgent medical care.

In a separate June ruling, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected efforts to restrict access to the abortion pill mifepristone. This decision, following the court’s revocation of the nationwide abortion guarantee, was celebrated by advocates for reproductive rights.

Supreme Court prepares to deliver its final verdict on Idaho’s abortion law, the implications for reproductive rights and access to emergency care remain pivotal. The outcome of this case is expected to shape the future landscape of abortion laws in the United States, influencing healthcare decisions and legal precedents nationwide.

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