Merrick Garland gives a closed-lipped grin.

Justice Department Is Stepping Up & Suing Idaho Over Abortion Trigger Ban

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced today that the Department of Justice is suing Idaho over the state’s abortion ban, saying the ban violates federal law.

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Idaho has a trigger law on the books that is set to take effect later this month, which would make it a felony to provide an abortion in nearly every case. The law does make exceptions for rape, incest, and to save the life of the pregnant person—or, more accurately, it says that the abortion provider can use these reasons as legal defenses against prosecution, meaning medical professionals are still likely to end up in court if they provide this care.

However, as Garland said in Tuesday’s press conference, “although the Idaho law provides an exception to prevent the death of a pregnant woman, it provides no exception for cases in which the abortion is necessary to prevent serious jeopardy to the woman’s health.”

Garland rightly says that this violates the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), which guarantees a person’s right to emergency medical care. The Department of Health and Human Services recently announced that the act unequivocally applies to abortion and that this federal law would override any state ban that didn’t allow for a patient to receive emergency abortion care.

By the way, Idaho Republicans also recently met to update their party platform to officially oppose abortion from the moment of conception and overwhelmingly rejected an amendment to add an exception in cases where abortion is necessary to save the life of the pregnant person, just in case there was any question as to how little they value human life.

It’s extremely heartening to see the DOJ backing up the HHS with the lawsuit. This is the kind of aggressive action we were begging the Biden administration to take after the Supreme Court overturned our constitutionally protected right to abortion. It took a while but it’s good to see the administration stepping up.

(image: Samuel Corum/Getty Images)


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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.