US Supreme Court poised to permit emergency abortions in Idaho, Bloomberg reports

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Supreme Court i in Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to allow - for now - abortions to be performed in Idaho in cases of medical emergencies for pregnant women, according to an apparent draft ruling in the case that a spokesperson said was inadvertently and briefly uploaded to the court's website.

The document was published by Bloomberg after the court issued two rulings earlier in the day, as the justices near the end of their current term with decisions in several major cases due to be announced in the coming days. The disclosure of the document represented another embarrassment for the top U.S. judicial body, coming two years after the draft of a blockbuster ruling rolling back abortion rights was leaked in advance.

The opinion in the Idaho case "has not been released," court spokesperson Patricia McCabe said in a statement. The justices heard arguments in the case in April.

"The court's Publications Unit inadvertently and briefly uploaded a document to the court's website," McCabe added, saying the ruling "will be issued in due course."

Reuters could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the document.

The decision, as reflected by the document, would effectively reinstate a lower court's ruling that had found that Idaho's near-total abortion ban must yield to a 1986 U.S. law known as the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) when the two statutes conflict. EMTALA ensures that patients can receive emergency care at hospitals that receive funding under the federal Medicare program.

President Joe Biden's administration sued Idaho, arguing that EMTALA takes precedence over state law.

The 6-3 decision, as reflected in the document, was an unsigned, one-line order to lift a block, or stay, that the Supreme Court previously placed on the lower court's ruling in January. The justices did not resolve the underlying legal dispute, opting instead to dismiss the case as "improvidently granted," according to the document.

The document indicated that conservative Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch voted in dissent.


Liberal Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson in a separate opinion agreed with the court's decision to lift its stay, but said she would not have dismissed the case, according to the document.

"Today's decision is not a victory for pregnant patients in Idaho. It is delay," Jackson wrote, according to the document. "While this court dawdles and the country waits, pregnant people experiencing emergency medical conditions remain in a precarious position, as their doctors are kept in the dark about what the law requires."

Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote a separate concurring opinion that was joined by two fellow conservatives, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, according to the document.

Barrett wrote that the dispute has significantly narrowed since the court agreed to resolve it, according to the document. Barrett said Biden's administration has disclaimed certain interpretations of EMTALA that Idaho had raised, including that it would force doctors to perform abortions over conscience objections, and that the state said its law would permit emergency abortions for certain conditions, according to the document.

Conservative Justice Samuel Alito disagreed with Barrett's rationale to toss the case, according to the document.

"Nothing legally relevant has occurred" since the court decided to take up the dispute, Alito wrote in a dissent joined by Thomas and Gorsuch, according to the document. "Apparently, the court has simply lost the will to decide the easy but emotional and highly politicized question that the case presents. That is regrettable."

Alito was the author of the 2022 decision that overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade precedent that had legalized abortion nationwide and was leaked a month before being formally issued. The culprit behind that leak has never been identified.

The court has major rulings pending in cases including former President Donald Trump's bid for immunity from prosecution and challenges to federal regulatory agencies.

EMTALA requires hospitals that receive funding under the federal Medicare program to "stabilize" patients with emergency medical conditions. Hospitals that violate EMTALA can face lawsuits by injured patients, civil fines and potentially the loss of Medicare funding.

Following Roe's demise, Biden's administration issued federal guidance stating that EMTALA takes precedence over state abortion bans in the relatively rare instances in which the two conflict, and filed a lawsuit challenging Idaho's ban.

Boise-based U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill in 2022 blocked enforcement of Idaho's law in cases of abortions that are needed to avoid putting the woman's health in "serious jeopardy" or risking "serious impairment to bodily functions."

Reuters/Ipsos polling shows that Americans broadly opposed Idaho's push to deny abortions to women who needed them to protect their health.

Some 77% of respondents to a May poll, including 86% of Democrats and 77% of Republicans, said they supported requiring states with strict abortion bans to permit abortion if necessary to protect the health of a pregnant patient facing a medical emergency.

(Reporting by John Kruzel and Andrew Chung; Additional reporting by Tyler Clifford; Editing by Will Dunham)