In the records, one hospital in the system indicated that its emergency department had stabilized her and transferred her to another of the system’s hospitals, where she was admitted for a day and treated by a maternal-fetal medicine doctor. The doctor wrote that while prospects for the fetus were dire and Ms. Statton was experiencing bleeding and nausea, Oklahoma law would allow an abortion only if there was “an immediate threat to the life of the mother.”
The doctor added, “therefore, we are unable to offer a termination” and noted that “termination can be pursued in a different state where the procedure is legal.” Ms. Statton then traveled 180 miles to have an abortion at a clinic in Kansas.
What are the lawsuits in Texas and Idaho about?
Texas sued the federal Department of Health and Human Services in July 2022, arguing that the agency’s memorandum about EMTALA would “force abortions” in hospitals in the state, violating the state’s ban. A federal district court ruled for Texas. The Biden administration appealed. In January 2024, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the district court ruling, making it impossible, for now, for the federal government to enforce EMTALA in Texas when doctors deem that women need emergency abortions.
The Idaho case before the Supreme Court was initiated by the Biden administration. The Justice Department filed suit in August 2022 claiming that the state’s abortion ban violated EMTALA because it makes exceptions only for abortions “necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman” but not to address threats to a woman’s health.
“Even in dire situations that might qualify for the Idaho law’s limited ‘necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman’ affirmative defense,” the federal government’s lawsuit said, “some providers could withhold care based on a well-founded fear of criminal prosecution.”