Justice Department sues Idaho over near-total abortion ban

Merrick Garland.
(Image credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The Department of Justice on Tuesday sued Idaho over its impending, near-total abortion ban, marking the Biden administration's first such abortion-related suit since the Supreme Court in June voted to overturn 1973's Roe v. Wade.

Speaking with reporters Tuesday afternoon, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the lawsuit is intended to stop the state's trigger ban, which is scheduled to take effect on Aug. 25 and bans all abortions except when needed to save a pregnant person's life, The Washington Post and Axios report. But the law also allows the criminal prosecution of doctors who perform abortions, which Garland argued could violate federal law "that says patients seeking emergency medical treatment at a hospital accepting Medicare funds are entitled to any lifesaving treatment," the Post summarizes. And in some instances — like an ectopic pregnancy, perhaps — that lifesaving treatment might be an abortion, NBC News notes.

"We will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that every pregnant woman gets the emergency medical treatment of which they are entitled to under federal law," the attorney general said.

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"The law places medical professionals in an impossible situation," added Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, per the Post. "They must either withhold stabilizing treatment ... or risk felony prosecution and license revocation. In so doing, the law will chill providers' willingness to perform abortions in emergency situations."

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