Die-in for abortion rights

Women's March held a die-in outside the U.S. Supreme Court during arguments over emergency abortion care on April 24, 2024 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Women's March)

'All States Will Be Impacted' by US Supreme Court's Idaho Abortion Case

"At its core, this Supreme Court decision will reflect who we are becoming as a society."

Less than a month after a key abortion pill hearing, the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments for another major reproductive rights case—one out of Idaho that could impact healthcare for pregnant women and people across the country.

Idaho is among the over 20 states that have tightened restrictions on abortion since the high court's right-wing majority reversedRoe v. Wade nearly two years ago with Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. Since August 2022, abortions have been banned in the state except for reported cases of rape or incest or when "necessary to prevent the death" of the pregnant person.

"If the court does not uphold emergency abortion care protections, this ruling will have devastating consequences for pregnant people."

Before Idaho's near-total ban on abortion took effect, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill barred enforcement of it to the extent that it conflicts with the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), a 1986 federal law requiring emergency departments that accept Medicare to provide "necessary stabilizing treatment" to any patient with an emergency medical condition.

The Biden administration argues that such care includes abortion; Idaho's Republican policymakers—backed by the far-right Christian Alliance Defending Freedom—disagree. The U.S. Supreme Court in January paused Winmill's order and agreed to hear arguments in Moyle v. United States and Idaho v. United States.

As The New York Timesreported Wednesday:

In a lively argument, questions by the justices suggested a divide along ideological lines, as well as a possible split by gender on the court. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative, appeared skeptical that Idaho's law, which bars doctors from providing abortions unless a woman's life is in danger or in specific nonviable pregnancies, superseded the federal law.

The argument also raised a broader question about whether some of the conservative justices, particularly Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., may be prepared to embrace language of fetal personhood, that is, the notion that a fetus would have the same rights as a pregnant woman.

Also noting Barrett's apparent alignment with the three liberal women on the court, Law Dork's Chris Geidner predicted "it comes down to" Chief Justice John Roberts and fellow right-winger Brett Kavanaugh.

"Already, we see women miscarrying and giving birth to stillborn infants in restrooms and in their cars after hospitals have turned them away, and medical professionals put in impossible positions by extremist lawmakers," said MomsRising executive director and CEO Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, citing Associated Pressreporting from last week.

"Of all the horrors SCOTUS unleashed with its appalling, dangerous, massively unpopular ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, the threat that pregnant people—most of whom are moms—will be denied emergency medical care is among the worst," she asserted. "An adverse ruling in this case will mean emergency rooms can deny urgently needed care to people experiencing serious pregnancy complications that can destroy their health, end their fertility, and take their lives."

Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, similarly stressed that under a decision that favors the Idaho GOP, "pregnant people will suffer severe, life-altering health consequences, and even death."

"We're already seeing the devastating impact of this case play out in Idaho, where medical evacuations to transport patients to other states for the care they need have dramatically spiked since the Supreme Court allowed state politicians to block emergency abortion care," she noted.

The has also been an exodus of healthcare providers. Pointing out that those who violate Idaho's ban face five years in prison, The Guardianreported Wednesday that "between 2022, when Roe was overturned, and 2023, about 50 OB-GYNs moved out of the state."

As Republican lawmakers in various states have ramped up attacks on reproductive freedom since Dobbs, states that still allow abortions have seen an influx of "healthcare refugees." A Planned Parenthood spokesperson confirmed in January that about 30% of its abortion patients in Nevada—which borders Idaho—are from other states.

"With several of Nevada's bordering states enforcing abortion bans, pushing many people seeking care to our state, we've seen firsthand the devastation that anti-abortion policies are already wreaking," Reproductive Freedom for All director of Nevada campaigns Denise Lopez said Tuesday. "The Supreme Court must not allow us to spiral further into this healthcare crisis."

If the high court rules in favor of Idaho's Republican lawmakers, she warned, "all states will be impacted, even in places like Nevada with more than 4 in 5 voters supporting reproductive freedom."

Destiny Lopez, acting co-CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, declared that "at its core, this Supreme Court decision will reflect who we are becoming as a society: Are we okay with requiring pregnant individuals who face severe complications to suffer life-threatening health consequences rather than granting them access to abortion? Are we okay with forcing doctors to choose between violating federal law by not providing emergency abortion care or violating state law if they do?"

"If the court does not uphold emergency abortion care protections, this ruling will have devastating consequences for pregnant people—particularly Black and Brown folks, immigrants, people with lower incomes, those without health insurance, and LGBTQ+ communities—while further emboldening extremists," she emphasized.

Arguments in the case have sparked multiple demonstrations, from a weekend rally in Boise, Idaho to a Wednesday gathering outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., where Women's March organized a die-in to highlight the potential consequences of the forthcoming ruling.

"It's a horrifying time to be someone who needs critical abortion care in America right now," said Women's March executive director Rachel O'Leary Carmona. "The GOP is chipping away at women's bodily autonomy and livelihoods one illegitimate court case at a time—from fast-tracking a case on the authorization of a medication that's been safely administered for decades last month, to now bringing the fate of emergency abortion care to a Supreme Court captured by their radical, anti-choice agenda."

"We know what these cases really are: They're part of a series of efforts by Christian nationalist politicians to do anything they can to control women's bodies and cut back women's decisions about their healthcare, their family planning, and their lives," she added.

Similar warnings about far-right Christian nationalist attacks on a range of rights have dominated political contests this cycle—including the race for the White House. In November, Democratic President Joe Biden, who supports access to abortion care, is set to face former Republican President Donald Trump, who brags about appointing three of the six justices who reversed Roe.

The case has renewed arguments for considering changes to the country's top court, which over the past few years has not only seen plummeting levels of public trust but also been rocked by repeated ethics scandals.

"Idaho's abortion ban is a direct consequence of the court's radical decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and allow partisan state legislatures to determine Americans' access to abortion care," said Stand Up America managing director of policy and political affairs Brett Edkins. "If the Supreme Court once again sides with anti-abortion extremists, it will be further proof that this court is radically out of touch with the American people and must be reformed."

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.