The AAMC joined the American Hospital Association (AHA) on Aug. 15 in filing an amicus curiae brief in support of the federal government’s challenge to an Idaho law which makes it a felony for a physician to terminate a pregnancy with very few exceptions.
In the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Idaho, Southern Division, the federal government is seeking a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the state law, slated to go into effect Aug. 25. The federal government argued that the Idaho law criminalizes medical treatment that hospitals are required to provide under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) and that the federal law preempts state law under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.
The amicus brief explained that EMTALA mandates stabilizing care for pregnant patients, which sometimes requires the termination of a pregnancy. For physicians, nurses, and other qualified medical personnel at Idaho hospitals, the state law poses an unacceptable threat of criminal liability for doing what federal law requires. The brief described the chilling effect the Idaho law would have on the practice of medicine, especially in the context of emergency care. It also noted health care workers’ need for clarity on the legal regimes governing the provision of care, as well as protection from criminal prosecution, to avoid disruption to Idaho’s emergency rooms and to protect patients who are in need of emergency care.
A hearing on the federal government’s motion for a preliminary injunction is scheduled for Aug. 22.