Complaint Alleges Idaho Law Violates the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act
The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit to protect the rights of patients to access emergency medical care guaranteed by federal law. The suit challenges Idaho Code § 18-622 (§ 18-622), which is set to go into effect on Aug. 25 and imposes a near-total ban on abortion.
The complaint seeks a declaratory judgment that § 18-622 conflicts with, and is preempted by, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) in situations where an abortion is necessary stabilizing treatment for an emergency medical condition. The United States also seeks an order permanently enjoining the Idaho law to the extent it conflicts with EMTALA.
“On the day Roe and Casey were overturned, we promised that the Justice Department would work tirelessly to protect and advance reproductive freedom,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “That is what we are doing, and that is what we will continue to do. We will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that pregnant women get the emergency medical treatment to which they are entitled under federal law. And we will closely scrutinize state abortion laws to ensure that they comply with federal law.”
“Federal law is clear: patients have the right to stabilizing hospital emergency room care no matter where they live,” said Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Women should not have to be near death to get care. The Department of Health and Human Services will continue its work with the Department of Justice to enforce federal law protecting access to health care, including abortions.”
“One critical focus of the Reproductive Rights Task Force has been assessing the fast-changing landscape of state laws and evaluating potential legal responses to infringements on federal protections,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “Today’s lawsuit against the State of Idaho for its near-absolute abortion ban is the first public example of this work in action. We know that these are frightening and uncertain times for pregnant women and their providers, and the Justice Department, through the Task Force’s work, is committed to doing everything we can to ensure continued lawful access to reproductive services.”
EMTALA requires hospitals that receive federal Medicare funds to provide necessary stabilizing treatment to patients who arrive at their emergency departments while experiencing a medical emergency. When a physician reasonably determines that the necessary stabilizing treatment is an abortion, state law cannot prohibit the provision of that care. The statute defines necessary stabilizing treatment to include all treatment needed to ensure that a patient will not have her health placed in serious jeopardy, have her bodily functions seriously impaired, or suffer serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.
As explained in the complaint, once § 18-622 enters into effect in Idaho, a prosecutor can indict, arrest and prosecute a physician merely by showing that an abortion has been performed, without regard to the circumstances. A physician who provides an abortion in Idaho can ultimately avoid criminal liability only by establishing as an affirmative defense that “the abortion was necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman” or that, before performing the abortion, the pregnant patient (or, in some circumstances, their parent or guardian) reported an “act of rape or incest” against the patient to a specified agency and provided a copy of the report to the physician. The law provides no defense for an abortion necessary to protect the health of the pregnant patient.
Idaho’s criminal prohibition of all abortions, subject only to the statute’s two limited affirmative defenses, directly conflicts with EMTALA and stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment of EMTALA’s federal objectives of providing stabilizing care and treatment to anyone who needs it. The Justice Department is committed to protecting access to reproductive services. Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs, the Justice Department established the Reproductive Rights Task Force, chaired by Associate Attorney General Gupta. The Task Force is charged with protecting access to reproductive freedom under federal law. For additional information on the work of the Task Force visit www.justice.gov/reproductive-rights.
Just a day after the unprecedented attempted insurrection at the Capitol and four years of tearing down the Rule of Law in Donald Trump’s quest to emulate the dictators he so admires, President-Elect Joe Biden’s introduction of his “Justice League” – the Attorney General, Deputy and Assistants – brought a welcome, calming reassurance. As with his other teams – health and human services, national security, climate and environment – Biden’s Justice nominees “have the experience, judgment, and moral compass that these roles demand, as well as an abiding commitment to supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States,” Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris said.
Biden set aside discussing the calls to remove Trump using the 25th Amendment or impeaching him for a second time before the term ends at 12:01 pm on January 20, but used yesterday’s “unprecedented assault on our democracy,” the mob attack on the Capitol while both chambers of Congress were in the process of certifying Biden-Harris election incited by Trump, to reaffirm his commitment to restoring an independent judiciary, the rule of law, and equal justice for all – all of which were subverted by a dictator wannabe demanding loyalty.
Indeed, it was the reason Biden sought the presidency, after seeing the White Supremacists march in Charlottesville. He evoked that image – as well as the differences in how Black Lives Matter protesters were treated compared to the mob that invaded the Capitol Building, rampaging and ransacking it. “Not only did we see a failure to protect one of the three branches of our government, we also saw a clear failure to carry out equal justice.”
Biden declared, “I made it clear from the moment I entered this race what I believed was at stake nothing less than who we are as a nation, what we stand for, and what we believe, what we will be. And at the center of that belief is one of the oldest principles this nation has long held — we are a government of laws — not people….
“The judiciary doesn’t serve the will of the president, or exist to protect him or her….Our president is not above the law. Justice serves the people — it doesn’t protect the powerful. And it is blind….
“I want it to be clear to those who lead the department and those who serve there. You don’t work for me. Your loyalty isn’t to me. It is to the law. To the Constitution. To the people of this nation. To guarantee justice.”
Here are Biden’s remarks, highlighted, and highlights from the nominees: –Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Yesterday was one of the darkest days in the history of our nation.
An unprecedented assault on our democracy.
An assault on the citadel of liberty, the United States Capitol itself.
An assault on the rule of law.
An assault on the most sacred of American undertakings: ratifying the will of the people
in choosing the leadership of their government.
We grieve the loss of life. We grieve the desecration of the people’s house.
But what we witnessed yesterday was not dissent. It was disorder.
It was not protest. It was chaos.
They weren’t protestors. Don’t dare call them protestors.
They were rioters, a mob.
It’s that basic and that simple.
And I wish we could say we couldn’t see it coming.
But that isn’t true. We could.
For the past four years we’ve had a president who has made his contempt for our democracy, our Constitution, and the rule of law clear in everything he has done.
He has unleashed an all-out assault on the institutions of our democracy.
And yesterday was but the culmination of that unrelenting attack.
He has attacked the free press who dared to question his power, repeatedly calling the free press the enemy of the people.
Language that has long been used by autocrats and dictators all over the world to hold on to power.
Language that is being used now by autocrats and dictators across the world, only this time with the imprimatur of the outgoing President of the United States.
He has attacked our intelligence services who dared to tell the American people the truth about the efforts of a foreign power to elect him four years ago, choosing instead to believe the word of Vladimir Putin over the word of those who had sworn their allegiance to this nation — many of whom had risked their lives in service in this nation.
He deployed the United States military, tear-gassing peaceful protestors in the pursuit of a photo opportunity in service of his reelection. Even holding the Bible upside down.
An action that led to an apology from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the outspoken denunciation of the use of the military for domestic political purposes from scores of former military leaders and Secretaries of Defense.
He thought he could stack the courts with friendly judges who would support him no matter what.
He went so far as to say he needed nine justices on the Supreme Court because he thought the election would end up in the Supreme Court and they would hand him the election.
And he was stunned, truly stunned, when the judges he appointed didn’t do his bidding, but instead acted with integrity, followed the Constitution, and upheld the rule of law.
Not just once or twice, or three times — but over 60 times.
In more than 60 cases, in state after state after state, and then at the Supreme Court judges, including people he considered quote “his” judges, “Trump judges” — the courts looked at the allegations Trump was making and determined they were without merit.
Nothing was judged to put the election in question or doubt.
You want to understand the importance of democratic institutions in this country?
Take a look at the judiciary in this nation.
Take a look at the pressure it was just subjected to by the sitting president of the United States.
At every level, it rose to the moment during this election.
Did its job.
Acted with complete fairness and impartiality.
With complete honor and integrity.
When history looks back at the moment we just passed through, it will say our democracy survived in no small part because of the men and women who represent the independent judiciary in this nation.
We owe them a deep, deep debt of gratitude.
And then there is his attack on the Department of Justice.
Treating the Attorney General as his personal lawyer and the department as his personal law firm.
Through it all, we would hear the same thing from this president — my generals, my judges, my Attorney General.
And then yesterday.
The culmination of the attack on our institutions of democracy.
This time the Congress itself.
Inciting a mob to attack the Capitol, to threaten the elected Representatives of the people of this nation and even the Vice President, to stop the United States Congress from ratifying the will of the people in a just-completed free and fair election.
Trying to use a mob to silence the voices of nearly 160 million Americans who summoned the courage in the face of a pandemic that threatened their health and their lives to cast their sacred ballot.
I made it clear from the moment I entered this race what I believed was at stake nothing less than who we are as a nation, what we stand for, and what we believe, what we will be.
And at the center of that belief is one of the oldest principles this nation has long held — we are a government of laws — not people.
I said it many times in the campaign.
Our democratic institutions are not relics of another age.
They are what set this nation apart.
They are the guardrails of our democracy.
They are why no president is a king.
No Congress is the House of Lords.
The judiciary doesn’t serve the will of the president, or exist to protect him or her.
We have three co-equal branches of government.
Our president is not above the law.
Justice serves the people — it doesn’t protect the powerful.
And it is blind.
What we saw yesterday in plain view was another violation of a fundamental tenet of this nation.
Not only did we see a failure to protect one of the three branches of our government, we also saw a clear failure to carry out equal justice.
No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protestors yesterday that they wouldn’t have been treated very differently than the mob that stormed the Capitol.
We all know that’s true. And that is totally unacceptable. And the American people saw it in plain view and I hope it sensitized them to what we have to do.
Not many people know it, but the reason the Department of Justice was formed in 1870 was to enforce the Civil Rights Amendments that grew out of the Civil War — the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments.
To stand up to the Klan.
To take on domestic terrorism.
This original spirit must once again guide and animate its work.
So as we stand here today, we do so in the wake of yesterday’s events.
Events that could not more vividly demonstrate some of the most important work we have to do in this nation.
Committing ourselves to the rule of law in this nation.
Invigorating our democratic institutions.
Carrying out equal justice under the law in America.
There is no more important place for us to do this work than at the Department of Justice.
And there are no more important people to carry out this work than the people I am announcing today.
More than anything, we need to restore the honor, the integrity, and the independence of the Department of Justice in this nation.
I want it to be clear to those who lead the department and those who serve there.
You don’t work for me. Your loyalty isn’t to me.
It is to the law.
To the Constitution. To the people of this nation. To guarantee justice.
For Attorney General of the United States, I nominate Judge Merrick Garland.
One of the most respected jurists of our time.
Brilliant yet humble.
Distinguished yet modest.
Full of character and decency.
Supreme Court clerk.
Served in the Justice Department during the Carter, Bush 41, and Clinton Administrations,
where he embraced the Department’s core values of independence and integrity.
As federal prosecutor he took on terrorism and corruption and violent crime always with utmost professionalism and duty to the oath he swore.
Nominated by President Clinton to be a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, considered the second most powerful court in America.
Throughout such a long and distinguished career, he has earned the praise and admiration of members of the bar and bench, and politicians of both parties.
And despite his busy schedule and prestigious position, he still makes time to volunteer
regularly tutoring students in Northeast D.C. as he has for more than 20 years.
This is about character.
It is no surprise why President Obama nominated Judge Garland to the Supreme Court.
He embodies honor, decency, integrity — fidelity to the rule of law and judicial independence.
It’s those same traits he will now bring as the Attorney General of the United States, not as the personal attorney to the President.
He will restore trust in the rule of law and equal justice under law.
I fully expect that he will receive a fair hearing and swift confirmation.
And once he is confirmed, I will move promptly to nominate his replacement on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and I expect that the distinguished nominee will receive a prompt and fair hearing as well.
“As everyone who watched yesterday’s events in Washington now understands — if they did not before — the Rule of Law is not just some lawyer’s turn-of-phrase. It is the very foundation of our democracy,” Garland said.
“The essence of the Rule of Law is that like cases are treated alike: That there not be one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans, one rule for friends and another for foes; one rule for the powerful and another for the powerless; one rule for the rich and another for the poor — or different rules depending on one’s race or ethnicity.
“And the essence of its great corollary, Equal Justice Under Law, is that all citizens are protected in the exercise of their civil rights. …
“These principles — ensuring the Rule of Law and making real the promise of Equal Justice Under Law — are the great principles upon which the Department of Justice was founded and for which it must always stand.
“They echo today in the priorities that lie before us — from ensuring racial equity in our justice system to meeting the evolving threat of violent extremism.
“If confirmed, those are the principles to which I will be devoted as Attorney General.”
For Deputy Attorney General I nominate Lisa Monaco.
A fifteen-year veteran of the Department of Justice, Lisa knows the department inside and out.
She is a definition of what a public servant should be — decent, trusted, and honorable.
A top-flight prosecutor who took on public corruption, corporate fraud, and violent crime.
Chief of Staff to the Director of the FBI.
The first woman ever to be confirmed as Assistant Attorney General for National Security,
where she elevated cybersecurity to a top priority — which is even more consequential today.
And at the White House, she was the top homeland security and counterterrorism advisor to President Obama and me.
She coordinated our fight against Al-Qaeda and ISIL. She helped lead our response to the Ebola crisis.
And when the bombs went off at the finish line on Patriot’s Day in Boston, her hometown , she coordinated the federal government’s response with local and state law enforcement to get to the bottom of this horrible tragedy.
I know she will help restore the integrity and independence of the Department of Justice that she reveres.
“The soul of the Justice Department lives in the integrity of its career professionals, in the independence of its investigations and prosecutions, and in the principles it brings to bear as it stewards the ideal of justice in America,” Monaco said.
“Today, we are at another inflection point. Some of the challenges we face are familiar — racial inequality; the need for criminal justice reform; domestic terrorism and threats to public safety.
“Some of the tasks are enduring — like the importance of working closely with law enforcement to ensure public safety and build trust in our communities.
“Some of the challenges are evolving — like mounting cyber threats.
“I’m confident that the Department of Justice is up to all these challenges, but what is most critical in the days ahead is not a challenge at all — but an opportunity.
“A chance for this team and the career professionals who make up the Justice Department to reaffirm its norms and traditions, to do justice without fear or favor, to keep the American people safe and to do so always consistent with the rule of law.”
For Associate Attorney General, the number 3 job at the Department — I nominate Vanita Gupta.
One of the most respected civil rights lawyers in America.
Started her career at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Then on to the ACLU.
And then to the Justice Department during the Obama-Biden Administration where she led the Civil Rights Division.
At every step, with every case, she has fought for greater equity and to right the wrongs in our justice system where they existed.
And she has done so by bringing people together, earning praise from across the ideological spectrum for her approach to solving some of the thorniest problems we face.
During the Obama-Biden Administration, Vanita was put in charge of investigating abuse of power in police departments in Ferguson, Missouri, and other communities torn apart by acts of violence and racial injustice.
She helped institute common-sense police reforms to build greater equity, safety, and trust.
She was commended for her work both by law enforcement and by those advocating for changes in the criminal justice system.
That is a rare achievement — and it speaks volumes about her capacity to unite people in common purpose, which this is all about.
Born in Philadelphia and a proud daughter of immigrants from India, if confirmed, Vanita will be the first woman of color to serve as Associate Attorney General.
I am grateful that Vanita is leaving her current job leading one of the premier civil rights organizations in the world to answer the call to serve once again and ensure our justice system is even more fair and equitable.
There are many agencies in our federal government — but only one which bears the name of a value,” Gupta said.
By virtue of that name — that value of justice — we know the Department carries a unique charge and North Star.
At its best, it is the keeper of a sacred promise — the promise of equal justice for all.
That no one is above the law.
When this promise is pursued with vigor, it brings light to our nation and serves as a beacon to the world.
But when abandoned, we degrade our democracy and sow the division we’ve come to know all too well…
This moment demands bold leadership
The Department of Justice, as it has done throughout history, will have to uncover and reckon with hard truths; hold people, companies, and institutions accountable to our Constitution and laws;
drive change where there is injustice; and heal a nation starving for decency and hope.
Now is the time to ensure our economic system works for everyone, to protect the health and safety of the American people, and to harness all DOJ levers for civil rights, justice reform, and climate justice.
For Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, I nominate Kristen Clarke, who has also spent her career advocating for greater equity in the justice system.
A daughter of Jamaican immigrants, Kristen is also one of the most distinguished civil rights attorneys in America.
A proud native of Brooklyn, New York she began her legal career in the very same office she is now nominated to lead.
Her previous tenure with the Justice Department saw her take on some of the most complex civil rights cases — from voting rights and redistricting challenges to prosecuting hate crimes and human trafficking.
She has earned accolades throughout her career — including as the head of the Civil Rights Bureau for her home state of New York, where she led the charge to end the school-to-prison pipeline and root out discrimination in housing and law enforcement.
She currently leads one of the nation’s top civil rights organizations, where she promotes greater equity in voting rights, in our education system, our housing system, our justice system, and so much more.
Now, she will return full circle to pursue that vital work where her career began.
The Civil Rights Division represents the moral center of the Department of Justice, and the heart of that fundamental American ideal, that we are created equal and deserve to be treated equally.
I am honored she accepted the call to return to make real that promise for all Americans.
“Not everyone is blessed with the opportunities I enjoyed,” Clarke said. “That awareness has animated my life’s work — it’s what brought me to the Department of Justice where I started my career — and it’s what brings me back for this homecoming today. ..The clarion call of equal justice under law is what binds us together as a nation.”
Biden said, “To each of you, thank you for your service and that of your families.
And to the American people, this is the team that will restore your trust and faith in our institutions of democracy.
One of the reasons I ran for president was when I saw those people coming out of the fields in Charlottesville, shouting hate, a young woman killed, and when asked, the President of the United States said there are good people on both sides.
That’s why I ran. There is no more important or heartfeld effort on my part than restoring the independence and integrity of our Justice Department.
May God bless you all.
May God protect our troops and those who have sworn to protect the American people.