US Supreme Court Sends Case Concerning Idaho’s Pro-Life Law Back to the Lower Courts

Ashley Sadler

Communications Director

(Oregon Right to Life) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled 6–3 to dismiss the Moyle v. United States case concerning whether Idaho’s pro-life law runs afoul of a federal statute dealing with emergency medical care. The case will now return to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for further litigation.

In the Thursday decision – which comes after the Supreme Court’s publications unit on Wednesday accidentally uploaded, then quickly removed, a document containing the opinion to the Court’s website – the Court dismissed the writs of certiorari in the case as “improvidently granted,” sending the issue back to the 9th Circuit Court, from which an injunction against Idaho’s pro-life law in has once again taken effect. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch dissented.

RELATED: US Supreme Court Accidentally Uploads Apparent Decision in Idaho Abortion Case

In a concurring opinion, Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote that Idaho’s “ability to enforce its law remains almost entirely intact.”

Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador emphasized this point in a Thursday statement shared with Oregon Right to Life, noting that his office achieved “significant concessions” from the Biden administration during arguments.

“The Supreme Court sent the case back to the 9th Circuit today after my office won significant concessions from the United States that Justice Barrett described as ‘important’ and ‘critical,'” Labrador said. “Today, the Court said that Idaho will be able to enforce its law to save lives in the vast majority of circumstances while the case proceeds.”

In Moyle, the Biden administration had argued that the 1986 federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) superseded Idaho’s robust pro-life law, the Defense of Life Act, in emergency situations. The EMTALA requires hospitals to stabilize patients with serious or life-threatening medical conditions and pertains to all hospitals that accept Medicare. Following the rollback of Roe v. Wade in June 2022 that permitted states to implement laws protecting the unborn, the federal government contended that Idaho’s pro-life law would be superseded by the EMTALA and that abortion is sometimes “stabilizing care.” 

A federal judge concurred with the Biden administration months later in August 2022, deciding that Idaho could not enforce its law limiting nearly all abortions in the state. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit then upheld the judge’s order, leading Idaho to bring its complaint to the U.S. Supreme Court with representation from attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

Idaho argued that the Biden administration’s interpretation of the EMTALA, which itself refers to a fetus as an “unborn child” on four separate occasions, went too far. The state contends that the act “neither authorizes nor requires hospitals to violate state law.” Moreover, the state points out that its legislation already distinguishes between necessary (and fully legal) medical interventions for serious conditions like ectopic and molar pregnancies, as opposed to unlawful abortions deliberately intended to end innocent unborn lives.

In his Thursday statement, Labrador said the concessions won during arguments significantly narrowed the Biden administration’s arguments concerning the EMTALA, triggering the Supreme Court’s decision to remand the case.

“The Biden administration’s concession that EMTALA will rarely override Idaho’s law caused the Supreme Court to ask the 9th Circuit for review in light of the federal government’s change in position,” he said. “Justice Barrett wrote, those concessions mean that Idaho’s Defense of Life Act ‘remains almost entirely intact.’ The 9th Circuit’s decision should be easy. As Justice Alito explained well: the Biden Administration’s ‘preemption theory is plainly unsound.’”

Labrador said he will “remain committed to protect unborn life and ensure women in Idaho receive necessary medical care, and I will continue my outreach to doctors and hospitals across Idaho to ensure that they understand what our law requires. We look forward to ending this Administration’s relentless overreach into Idahoans’ right to protect and defend life.”

“The Biden-Harris Administration has worked side-by-side with the abortion industry to expand unlimited abortion throughout all 50 states,” Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, said in a Thursday statement. “The Biden-Harris Administration has deliberately created confusion and fear by claiming that women cannot and will not receive the emergency care they need.”

“We were pleased to see the U.S. government changing its tune during oral argument, going on record to state that they are not trying to turn emergency rooms into elective abortion facilities,” Tobias said. “We hope the courts hold their feet to the fire on this promise.”

RELATED: US Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in Idaho Abortion Case

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America state policy director Katie Daniel described the Court’s decision to remand the case as “a setback,” but expressed confidence that “Idaho will eventually prevail on the merits of the case.”

“While this litigation continues, it’s a reminder and a wake-up call that the stakes of the coming election are higher than ever for unborn children and their mothers,” SBA Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser said.

“The Democrats will stop at nothing to overturn pro-life protections in every state and impose all-trimester abortion on demand as national law,” she continued. “They must be stopped, and that is why we are working relentlessly to reach 10 million voters – with four millions visits directly to their homes – across eight key battleground states that will determine who has control in Washington.”

In a press release, Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy John Bursch said that “[b]oth Idaho’s law and the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act seek to protect the lives of women and their unborn children, and the consistency between those laws makes us confident about the future of this case.”

“As Justice Barrett noted in her opinion, ‘even with the preliminary injunction in place, Idaho’s ability to enforce its law remains almost entirely intact.’ The Biden administration can’t manipulate federal law to wipe out state protections for unborn children and force emergency room doctors to perform abortions. Under Idaho’s law, doctors will continue to provide care to women experiencing ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages, and life-threatening conditions,” Bursch said. “We’ll continue to assist the state of Idaho and bring a rightful end to the administration’s unlawful overreach and protect the people’s freedom to preserve life.”

Meanwhile, this wasn’t the only abortion-related case to go before the Supreme Court this year.

On June 13, the nation’s highest court rejected a case brought by pro-life medical professionals challenging the loosening of guardrails on one of two drugs used in chemical abortions. In its unanimous June 13 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine (AHM) did not have legal standing to sue the FDA over its recent policy changes expanding access to the abortion drug mifepristone.

However, the Court did not make any judgment on the propriety or legality of the FDA’s policy changes, leaving the substance of the case open for potential future consideration. 

READ: US Supreme Court Rejects Case Against Abortion Pill Mifepristone

Idaho, Kansas, and Missouri had intervened in the lawsuit in district court and attempted to do so in the now-concluded Supreme Court case. They are expected to continue the litigation in federal court, likely arguing that they have the standing that the AHM lacked.

Oregon Right to Life believes in the sanctity of all human life from the moment of conception to natural death. Abortion ends the life of a genetically distinct, growing human being. We oppose abortion at any point of gestation. In rare cases, a mother may have a life threatening condition in which medical procedures intended to treat the condition of the mother may result in the unintended death of her preborn baby. At the same time, ORTL recognizes that modern medical practice has and will continue to increase the ability to save both the life of the mother and the baby. Read this and all of our position statements here.


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