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Supreme Court blocks Idaho's ban on emergency abortions, but it's 'not a victory for pregnant patients'

Supreme Court abortion protest
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The U.S. Supreme Court has blocked an Idaho ban on emergency abortions, but Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson says the decision "is not a victory for pregnant patients."

The United States Supreme Court has blocked a ban on emergency abortions in Idaho, ruling that health care practitioners can provide the care if the health of the pregnant patient is threatened.

A draft of the opinion leaked Wednesday, revealing that the court intended to rule against Idaho Republican leaders in a 6-3 decision, with conservative Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Clarence Thomas dissenting. The court has now officially dismissed the appeal, blocking enforcement of the state’s law without addressing the issue on a federal level.

The court dismissed the appeal as as “improvidently granted," declining to rule on the Biden Administration's assertion that the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act should override state abortion bans when the patient is experiencing a medical emergency.

Now, abortions may be performed in Idaho not only if the life of the pregnant patient is at risk, but also if their health is threatened. Justice Elena Kagan explained in a concurring opinion that the decision “will prevent Idaho from enforcing its abortion ban when the termination of a pregnancy is needed to prevent serious harms to a woman’s health.”

While the ruling marked a small step forward for abortion rights, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson warned in a separate concurring opinion that "today’s decision is not a victory for pregnant patients in Idaho. It is delay.”

"While this court dawdles and the country waits, pregnant people experiencing emergency medical conditions remain in a precarious position, as their doctors are kept in the dark about what the law requires," she wrote.

Activists are also denouning the court for not deciding on federal law. Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement that "the health and safety of patients should never be up for debate."

"With this decision, the Supreme Court has shamefully refused to solidify emergency abortion protections nationally, leaving access to stabilizing, life-saving abortion care under threat," she said. "Abortions should be accessible for everyone, everywhere — not just in emergency circumstances. The fight for reproductive freedom is far from over.”

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Ryan Adamczeski

Ryan is a reporter at The Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel "Someone Else's Stars," and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.
Ryan is a reporter at The Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel "Someone Else's Stars," and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.