DOJ filing criticizes state’s request to reconsider abortion injunction
By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports
The U.S. Department of Justice opposes the state and the Legislature’s requests for a federal judge to reconsider his earlier ruling regarding prosecuting providers for abortion.
In August, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill sided with the DOJ, in-part, and prohibited the prosecution of abortions in emergency situations at hospitals.
Since then, both the Attorney General’s Office and the Legislature have asked the judge to reconsider his decision. They both challenge the decision revolving around the DOJ’s claim that Idaho’s near total abortion ban violates a federal law called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act.
EMTALA requires all hospitals that accept Medicare to stabilize patients in a medical emergency, including pregnant women in emergency situations.
The DOJ opposed the requests to reconsider in a Wednesday filing and applauded the judge’s earlier decision.
“The State and the Legislature merely seek ‘a second bite at the apple’ by rehashing arguments that they previously presented or by offering arguments without any excuse for having failed to raise them before,” attorneys for the DOJ write.
The DOJ claims the State and the Legislature have not demonstrated that extraordinary circumstances exist that would justify reconsideration.
One of the state’s fundamental arguments was that the argument of understanding EMTALA as mandating abortions as medical care was an “afront (sic) to the State’s sovereignty and police power,” the state AG’s Office wrote.
The DOJ argues the Legislature has expanded its role and the requests for reconsideration are “meritless.” DOJ attorneys criticized the Legislature’s defense of the trigger law banning all abortion with rare exceptions.
“Idaho’s law criminalizes all abortions (no matter how medically necessary or life-saving and no matter whether the pregnancy is viable) and allows medical professionals to avoid criminal liability only by proving an affirmative defense that is narrower than what EMTALA requires,” according to the DOJ’s filing. “The State’s arguments about the scope of the affirmative defense are both wrong and beside the point.”
Winmill had not issued an opinion, as of Thursday morning, on whether the court would grant a reconsideration request.
The Idaho Supreme Court also heard arguments on abortion legislation in the state last week. The higher court has not yet drafted an opinion in those lawsuits.