Justice Delayed in Supreme Court’s EMTALA Ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today to dismiss an Idaho abortion case without ruling on the merits delays any real answers. The federal law known as the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) requires emergency rooms to provide “necessary stabilizing treatment” to patients with emergency medical conditions. The Biden Administration has used the law to force emergency room healthcare professionals to perform abortions even against state laws limiting abortion.

The decision means lower courts will have to grapple with the question before the Court would again consider it.

I agree with Justice Samuel Alito’s strong dissent stating, “EMTALA’s text unambiguously demands that Medicare-funded hospitals protect the health of both a pregnant woman and her ‘unborn child.’”

Any final decision on the scope of EMTALA likely hinges on the definition of “medical emergency,” which Arizona has well defined as a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function. Initial legal analysis seems to indicate that Idaho can solve this dispute by adopting a similar medical emergency definition in their abortion law.

Today’s ruling has no impact on Arizona law.

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