BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Justice Department on Tuesday filed a lawsuit challenging Idaho’s restrictive abortion law, arguing that it conflicts with a federal law requiring doctors to provide pregnant women with medically necessary treatment which may include abortion.
The federal government has filed a lawsuit seeking to strike down “the state’s criminal prohibition on providing abortions as applied to women with medical emergencies,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said.
The announcement is the Justice Department’s first major action challenging a state trigger law since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in June. The court ruling has led some states to enact restrictive abortion laws and will likely lead to abortion bans in about half of US states.
The Justice Department sued because federal prosecutors believe the Idaho law would require doctors to violate the federal Emergency Treatment and Labor Act, a federal law that requires anyone visiting in a medical facility for emergency treatment to be stabilized and treated, Garland said.
“Idaho law would make it a criminal offense for physicians to provide emergency medical treatment required by federal law,” Garland said.
Idaho, like many Republican-run states, has several anti-abortion laws in effect, creating a legal quagmire now that the US Supreme Court has overturned the landmark abortion rights case Roe v . Wade.
The law targeted by the Justice Department criminalizes all abortions, making anyone who performs or attempts to perform an abortion punishable by two to five years in prison.
Persons charged under the law could defend themselves against the criminal allegations by arguing that the abortion was performed to save a pregnant person from death, or that it was performed after the pregnant person reported having been victim of rape or incest to a law enforcement agency – and provided a copy of this report to the abortion provider.
“Under Idaho law, once in effect, any state or local prosecutor can subject a physician to indictment, arrest, and prosecution simply by showing that an abortion was performed, regardless of circumstances,” the Justice Department wrote in the lawsuit. . “The law then places the onus on the doctor to prove an ‘affirmative defense’ at trial.”
Advocates for sexual assault survivors have said the rape and incest exception is essentially unnecessary because Idaho’s public records law does not allow law enforcement to release reports when a case is still under investigation – a process that usually takes weeks or months.
Family physician Dr. Caitlin Gustafson and a regional family planning organization have already invoked the abortion ban in the Idaho Supreme Court, which is expected to hear arguments in the case on Wednesday. In the lawsuit, Gustafson argues that the exception for medical emergencies is vague and impossible to interpret.
“It would be very difficult, if not impossible, for me to implement the medical exception and provide care to a pregnant person whose life may be in danger,” Gustafson wrote, noting that certain serious medical conditions related to the pregnancy like preeclampsia can lead to death. although it is not guaranteed to do so.
Neither Idaho Governor Brad Little nor Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, both Republicans, immediately responded to requests for comment on the federal lawsuit.
Balsamo brought from Washington, DC