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US sues Idaho state over abortion ban

August 2, 2022

The US Justice Department has filed a lawsuit over the state of Idaho's "near-absolute" ban on abortion. The department argues the ban violates federal law.

Pro-choice protesters in Boise, Idaho
The Idaho law that effectively bans abortion triggered protests in state capital BoiseImage: Sarah A. Miller/Idaho Statesman/TNS/Newscom/picture alliance

The United States on Tuesday sued the state of Idaho over a law that imposes a "near-absolute ban" on abortion.

The filing also sought to block the state from prosecuting or disciplining doctors.

What does the lawsuit say?

The US Justice Department argues that the ban would criminalize doctors who provide medically necessary treatment that is protected under federal law.

The department argues that the law would force doctors to violate the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act.

The federal government brought the suit with the goal of invalidating Idaho's "criminal prohibition on providing abortions as applied to women suffering medical emergencies," Attorney General Merrick Garland said.

"Idaho's law would make it a criminal offense for doctors to provide the emergency medical treatment that federal law requires," Garland said.

The lawsuit also alleges that the state law interferes with the US' agreements with hospitals under the Medicare program that provides healthcare to seniors.

Infographic showing US tates likely to ban abortion following the overturning of Roe v. Wade
13 states, including Idaho, had enacted trigger bans that may come into effect following the Supreme Court's decision

New abortion restrictions in the US

In June, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, allowing states to impose restrictions on abortion. Republican-dominated legislatures throughout the country are now seeking to further restrict the procedure or even prohibit it entirely.

Idaho's abortion ban is a "trigger" law, enacted in March but only coming into effect following the Supreme Court's decision. 12 other states have trigger laws on the books.

The law is based on Texas' six-week abortion ban, which prohibits the procedure before many women know they are pregnant and allows private citizens to sue abortion providers.

 "Under the Idaho law, once effective, any state or local prosecutor can subject a physician to indictment, arrest, and prosecution merely by showing that an abortion has been performed, without regard to the circumstances,'' the Department of Justice said.

"The law then puts the burden on the physician to prove an `affirmative defense' at trial."

Also on Tuesday, voters Kansas went to the polls to decide on whether to remove the right to abortion from the state's constitution.

sdi/aw (AP, Reuters)