On Wednesday, August 24, 2022, the United States Department of Justice ("DOJ") successfully sought and received a preliminary injunction blocking an Idaho state law (Idaho Code Section 18-22) on the principal basis that the soon-to-go-into effect Idaho law (i.e. August 25, 2022) would prevent a woman from receiving stabilizing treatment pursuant to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act ("EMTALA"). According to United States District Judge B. Lynn Winmill, the presiding judge hearing the case, the preliminary injunction was granted to the extent that the Idaho law conflicts with EMTALA-mandated care and "to avoid (i) placing the health of a pregnant patient in serious jeopardy; (ii) a serious impairment of bodily functions of the pregnant patient; or (iii) a serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part of the pregnant patient, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd(e)(1)(A)(i)-(iii)."
Judge Winmill, who based his decision, in part, upon physician declarations provided to the court, stated that women who arrive in an emergency department experiencing traumatic placental abruption, preeclampsia, or a preterm premature rupture of the membranes may medically require a termination of the woman's pregnancy to avoid a "devastating result for the doctor and the patient." More specifically, the Idaho law provided only the following two narrow exceptions for a physician performing an abortion: (i) to prevent the death of the pregnant woman; or (ii) for the unborn child to survive. As stated by Justice Winmill, if abortion is necessary to prevent grave harm to a woman, a physician who performs such abortion would face loss of his or her license and at least two years in prison under the Idaho criminal law. In reaching the decision to grant the preliminary injunction, Judge Winmill noted that EMTALA preempts state law to the extent that it conflicts with EMTALA and further reasoned that the Idaho law stands as an obstacle to complying with EMTALA. See, U.S. v. State of Idaho, case number 1:22-cv-00329, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho.
On the same day, in another case brought in Texas, a federal judge in Texas granted a preliminary injunction to the State of Texas, which argued that EMTALA does not mandate abortion as a stabilizing treatment for an emergency condition. This decision came days before the trigger law on abortion was to take effect in Texas. See, Texas v. Xavier Becerra et al., case number 5:22-cv-00185, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.
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