By MICHAEL BALSAMO and REBECCA BOONE Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Justice Department filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging Idaho’s restrictive law. abortion law, arguing that it conflicts with a federal law that requires doctors to provide pregnant women with medically necessary treatment that could include abortion.
The federal government sued to invalidate the state’s “criminal prohibition on providing abortions to women suffering from medical emergencies,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said.
The announcement is the first major Justice Department action challenging a state activation law since The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. The court’s decision has prompted some states to enact restrictive abortion laws and is likely to lead to abortion bans in about half of US states.
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The Justice Department sued because federal prosecutors believe the Idaho law would force doctors to violate the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, a federal law that requires anyone who goes to a medical facility for treatment emergency is stabilized and treated, Garland said.
“The Idaho law would make it a criminal offense for physicians to provide emergency medical treatment that is required by federal law,” Garland said.
Idaho, like many Republican-led states, has several anti-abortion laws on the books, creating a legal quagmire now that the US Supreme Court has struck down the landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade.
The law the Justice Department is targeting criminalizes all abortions and subjects anyone who performs or attempts to perform an abortion to a felony punishable by between two and five years in prison.
Persons charged under the law could defend themselves against criminal charges by arguing that the abortion was performed to save a pregnant person from death, or that it was performed after the pregnant person reported that she had been the victim of rape or incest to a law enforcement agency, and provided a copy of that report to the abortion provider.
“Under Idaho law, once it takes effect, any state or local prosecutor may charge, arrest, and prosecute a physician solely for proving that an abortion was performed, regardless of the circumstances,” the Justice Department wrote. on the demand. . “So the law places the burden on the doctor to prove an ‘affirmative defense’ at trial.”
Advocates for sexual assault survivors have said the rape and incest exception is essentially worthless, because Idaho’s public record law does not allow law enforcement agencies to release reports when a case is still under investigation, a process that typically takes weeks or months.
Dr. Caitlin Gustafson, a family physician, and a regional Planned Parenthood organization have already ruled on the abortion ban in the Idaho Supreme Court, which is expected to hear arguments in the case on Wednesday. In the lawsuit, Gustafson contends that the emergency medical exception 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 at risk,” Gustafson wrote, noting that some serious medical conditions related to pregnancy, such as preeclampsia, can cause death. although it is not guaranteed that it will.
Neither Idaho Governor Brad Little nor Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, both Republicans, immediately responded to requests for comment on the federal lawsuit.
Balsamo reported from Washington, D.C.
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