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Updated Jun 27, 2024, 12:44pm EDT
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US Supreme Court allows emergency abortions in Idaho to continue, for now

Insights from The Hill, The Associated Press, and KFF

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Will Dunham/Reuters
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The News

Idaho hospitals can continue to provide emergency abortion care for now — even though abortion is banned in the state, the US Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

In a 6-3 decision, the court dismissed an appeal from Idaho officials, and affirmed a lower court’s decision to allow emergency abortion care in the state to continue. But the court did not definitively rule on the case’s key legal question: Whether a federal law requiring emergency care to be administered at all hospitals that accept Medicare funding overrides state abortion restrictions.

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The dismissal will not impact laws in any other states, and the court could take up the issue in a later case.

This case marked the first time the court has considered the furthest implications of a state ban since overturning Roe v Wade.

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This is not a win for abortion rights, advocates say

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Sources:  
The Hill, The Associated Press

The court at least temporarily protected women in Idaho, abortion rights advocates said, but left women in the six other states with similar laws without defense. “Today’s decision is not a victory for pregnant patients in Idaho. It is a delay,” Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson said in her partial dissent. By sidestepping the issue at the core of this case — whether states with abortion bans must provide the procedure to women whose health would be in danger without it — the court kicked the can down the road, liberal nonprofit Indivisible said: Its Chief Campaigns Officer Sarah Dohl characterized the dismissal as “SCOTUS recklessly and needlessly endangering women’s lives, and then punting on issuing a major ruling in an election-year.”

Legal battle could get more complicated under a second Trump term

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Sources:  
NBC News, CNN, The Hill, The Associated Press

If former US President Donald Trump wins reelection, his administration could shift course from President Joe Biden’s and argue that the federal law in question does not conflict with state abortion laws. Vice President Kamala Harris warned that “a second Trump term would make matters even worse,” because he could ban abortion nationwide. (Trump has said he would not do so, but liberals are skeptical.) Regardless of a new federal ban, some Democratic advisers have warned that Trump would “almost certainly” get to appoint two more Supreme Court justices during a second term, which could further imperil abortion rights because the justices left themselves open to hearing future arguments on the issue that could have a broader impact.

Dismissal fails to clarify vague exceptions, leaving patients at risk

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Sources:  
USA Today, KFF

Reports of pregnant women being turned away from emergency rooms and left to give birth or miscarry on their own have spiked since Roe v Wade was overturned two years ago, largely because medical exceptions in state abortion bans are too vague to allow doctors to move decisively without fear of legal repercussions. “This Court had a chance to bring clarity and certainty to this tragic situation, and we have squandered it,” Jackson wrote. Some experts have argued that there’s no way for abortion ban exemptions to include every possible medical exception, but a ruling from the court could have offered some amount of clarity.

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