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Experts in Law, Medicine, Business, Reproductive Rights, and Gender Justice Call on the Supreme Court to Protect the Right to Emergency Abortion Care

National Women's Law Center

March 29, 2024

On March 29, 2024, the National Women’s Law Center issued the following press release:

WASHINGTON D.C. – On Thursday, March 28, 2024, a broad coalition of major medical organizations, physicians, people who have been denied critical health- and life-saving emergency abortion care, former HHS officials, Members of Congress, states, cities, counties, prosecutors, public health experts, legal scholars, businesses, advocates for disability rights, survivors of intimate partner violence, abortion funds, and more than 100 gender justice, reproductive rights, health justice, disability rights, civil rights, and labor organizations filed 27 amicus briefs to the Supreme Court.

The briefs outline the devastating, lifelong consequences of removing federal protections guaranteeing a right to emergency abortion care for pregnant patients in the Supreme Court case Idaho v. United States and Moyle v. United States, which will be heard on April 24th.

The case presents two fundamental questions that can impact the future of our country. First, whether the Court will interpret the law to permit women and pregnant people to be singled out for disfavored treatment when it comes to federal protections. Second, whether states can make exceptions to federal laws they disagree with, upending a bedrock principle of federalism.

“In the aftermath of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, EMTALA has become an even more vital safeguard for ensuring that all pregnant people have access to the medical care they need and deserve. These amicus briefs demonstrate broad support for the longstanding nationwide guarantee of care for pregnant people who are experiencing emergency medical conditions.” said Gretchen Borchelt, Vice President for Reproductive Rights and Health at the National Women’s Law Center. “To remove these protections would threaten people’s health and lives, worsening the already severe maternal health crisis, which disproportionately affects Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, people in rural communities, people with disabilities, people with low-incomes, immigrants, and other people who already experience significant barriers to health care. That we are forced to plead with the Court to shield us from unnecessary suffering and even death is unacceptable. The Court must uphold EMTALA’s protections for pregnant people.”

“For nearly four decades, EMTALA has provided the foundation for the emergency care safety net and been supported by lawmakers of diverse ideological perspectives.” said Skye Perryman, President and CEO of Democracy Forward. “Extremists’ efforts to ban abortion – even in emergency settings – create bad law and bad medicine and are directly contrary to EMTALA’s mandate and to bedrock principles of medical ethics. Pregnant patients, like all people, are entitled to stabilizing emergency care that EMTALA requires and state laws that conflict with this federal protection are unlawful.  Democracy Forward will continue to support the protections for patients provided by EMTALA and oppose efforts by states to undermine those protections. We urge the Supreme Court to protect the right of every person in this country to obtain the emergency care they need.”

“This case illustrates the importance of EMTALA’s mandate that Medicare-funded hospitals provide stabilizing emergency treatment to all who need it. Patients with emergency pregnancy complications are vulnerable to death and life-long illness, and they deserve what federal law guarantees: access to the treatment necessary to save their lives and health. Cohen Milstein is proud to stand with and support the National Women’s Law Center and its coalition partners in their work to protect pregnant people,” said Alison Deich, Partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, PLLC.

Highlights from the 27 briefs filed include:

  • Leading medical and public health organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Emergency Physicians, American Public Health Association, a coalition of 678 Idaho physicians and healthcare providers, multiple physician organizations, and 133 distinguished deans and professors of disciplines spanning the health professions, filed briefs explaining that abortion care is necessary to treat a range of emergency pregnancy complications and arguing that if pregnant people are excluded from EMTALA, state abortion restrictions, such as Idaho’s law, will force health care providers to choose between following the law and their expertise, potentially criminalizing them for providing health- and life-saving care.
  • Patients who were denied health- and life-saving abortion care and more than 100 community-based and national gender justice, reproductive rights and justice, disability rights, civil rights, and labor groups filed briefs underscoring the widespread harm to pregnant people experiencing emergencies that would result from being excluded from EMTALA, particularly for those who most need pregnancy-related emergency care yet are least likely to be able to access it, and how a decision gutting EMTALA will further exacerbate this country’s egregious maternal health crisis, particularly for Black, Indigenous, and other women of color.
  • 258 Members of Congress, former HHS officials, and state and local government officials urge the Supreme Court to protect the supremacy of federal laws and ensure Congressional intent is followed, making it clear that the legislative text and longstanding mandate of EMTALA shows hospitals must provide abortion care when this care is the “necessary stabilizing treatment” for a patient’s “emergency medical condition,” and that for nearly 40 years regulators have understood that EMTALA requires this care.
  • Legal scholars and experts, including law professors who specialize in procedural, jurisdictional, and constitutional issues, filed briefs explaining that EMTALA’s statutory text plainly requires hospitals to provide abortion care when necessary to stabilize an emergency condition regardless of state laws restricting or banning abortion, countering Idaho’s arguments seeking to undermine the supremacy of federal law, and pointing out the extraordinary nature of the Court’s decision to hear this case this term and let Idaho’s ban go fully into effect before the lower court even had a chance to weigh in.
  • Business leaders such as Bumble, Lyft, Yelp, and others, explaining that reproductive healthcare restrictions are bad for the economy and bad for business and that restrictions like those imposed by Idaho will result in maternity care deserts, a lack of diversity in the workforce, and an inability to recruit and retain top talent when pregnant people and their families are forced to make family and career decisions based on where they can be guaranteed proper health care.

Learn more about each of the amicus briefs filed.

Read Experts in Law, Medicine, Business, Reproductive Rights, and Gender Justice Call on the Supreme Court to Protect the Right to Emergency Abortion Care.