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State of Idaho v. United States of America

Description:  The Biden administration is attempting to use federal law, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, to force emergency room doctors to perform abortions that are illegal under Idaho law.


U.S. Supreme Court building
Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024

WASHINGTON – The Office of the Idaho Attorney General, with the assistance of seasoned Supreme Court litigators from Alliance Defending Freedom and Cooper & Kirk, filed its opening brief Tuesday with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to prevent the Biden administration from misusing federal law to override Idaho’s Defense of Life Act. Idaho’s law protects the lives of women and their unborn children, preventing doctors from performing abortions unless necessary to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest.

In August 2022, the Biden administration sued Idaho, claiming that it could use the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act to preempt Idaho’s protections for life and force emergency room doctors to perform abortions that are unlawful in Idaho. But there is no conflict between EMTALA and Idaho’s law as both seek to save lives and neither requires abortions to be performed. After a lower court upheld the Biden administration’s attempt to rewrite EMTALA and prevented Idaho from enforcing its law, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and issued a stay allowing Idaho to continue to protect the lives of women and their unborn children as the litigation continues.

“Despite the portrayal by the media and the Biden administration, both Idaho law and EMTALA share a consistent goal: to protect everyone’s life, including unborn children,” said Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador. “Idaho’s law is perfectly consistent with EMTALA, which provides explicit protections for ‘unborn children’ in four separate places. The notion that EMTALA requires doctors to perform abortions is absurd. We are asking the Supreme Court to end the administration’s unlawful overreach and to respect the people of Idaho’s decision to protect life.”

“The Biden administration has no authority to override Idaho’s law and force emergency room doctors to perform abortions. There is no conflict between Idaho’s Defense of Life Act and EMTALA,” said ADF Senior Counsel John Bursch, vice president of appellate advocacy. “Both Idaho’s law and EMTALA seek to protect the lives of women and their unborn children. The Supreme Court should uphold Idaho’s law and ensure that emergency room doctors are not forced to end lives.”

“The federal government can’t compel Idaho’s compliance with an invented federal mandate that is contrary to EMTALA’s text,” said Chuck Cooper, chairman and founding partner of Cooper & Kirk. “The administration has no authority to use EMTALA to overwrite Idaho’s law, and we hope the Supreme Court will end the administration’s brazen lawlessness.”

The opening brief states that “[t]he whole point of Dobbs was to restore to the states their authority to regulate abortion. Yet the administration seeks to thwart Idaho’s exercise of self-government on this important topic.…The Medicare Act generally—and EMTALA specifically—preserve the right of states to regulate the practice of medicine, including on the issue of abortion.”

The brief further explains that “EMTALA explicitly promises in four places protection for an ‘unborn child.’…A medical provider complies with EMTALA when it offers stabilizing treatment in accord with state law and the hospital’s capabilities…[T]hat is why there is no conflict between Idaho’s Defense of Life Act and EMTALA.” The brief makes clear that allowing Idaho to enact its law “poses no threat to pregnant women’s healthcare in Idaho because ‘Idaho’s law expressly contemplates neces­sary medical care for pregnant women in distress.’”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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ABOUT John Bursch

John Bursch is senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy with Alliance Defending Freedom. Bursch has argued 12 U.S. Supreme Court cases and more than 30 state supreme court cases since 2011, and a recent study concluded that among all frequent Supreme Court advocates who did not work for the federal government, he had the 3rd highest success rate for persuading justices to adopt his legal position. Bursch served as solicitor general for the state of Michigan from 2011-2013. He has argued multiple Michigan Supreme Court cases in eight of the last ten terms and has successfully litigated hundreds of matters nationwide, including six with at least $1 billion at stake. As part of his private firm, Bursch Law PLLC, he has represented Fortune 500 companies, foreign and domestic governments, top public officials, and industry associations in high-profile cases, primarily on appeal. He received his J.D. magna cum laude in 1997 from the University of Minnesota Law School and is admitted to practice in numerous federal district and appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.