A federal judge has barred Idaho from enforcing a strict abortion ban in medical emergencies, clearing the way for hospitals to continue treating ectopic pregnancies and other pregnancy-related complications normally for now.
The ban makes performing an abortion in any "clinically diagnosable pregnancy" a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Much of the law will still go into effect Thursday, but U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said Wednesday the state cannot prosecute anyone who is performing an abortion in an emergency medical situation.
That’s because abortions in those cases appear to fall under a federal health care law requiring Medicare-funded hospitals to provide "stabilizing treatment" to patients, Winmill said. That includes cases when the health of a pregnant patient is in serious jeopardy, when continuing the pregnancy could result in a serious impairment to a person’s bodily functions, or a serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.
The pause on enforcement will continue until a lawsuit challenging the ban is resolved, the judge said in the written ruling.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Judge: Idaho abortion ban seems to conflict with federal law
The U.S. Department of Justice sued the Republican-led state of Idaho earlier this month, saying the abortion ban set to take effect on Thursday violates the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA). Idaho’s law criminalizes all abortions in "clinically diagnosable pregnancies," but allows physicians to defend themselves in court by arguing the procedure was necessary to avert the death of the mother.
Idaho Attorney General’s spokesman Scott Graf said his office would not comment on the ruling because the case is still working its way through the courts.