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US Supreme Court revives Idaho abortion ban as legal battle ensues

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The US Supreme Court has reinstated a near-total abortion ban in Idaho, a decision made on Friday pending the court’s consideration of an appeal against the controversial law. The conservative-majority court, having overturned the constitutional right to abortion in June 2022, has slated oral arguments for the Idaho case in April.

Idaho currently boasts some of the nation’s most stringent anti-abortion laws, permitting the procedure only in cases where a pregnant woman faces imminent death. The Biden administration has challenged Idaho’s law, asserting that it clashes with a federal statute mandating hospitals receiving government Medicare funding to offer emergency room medical care, including abortion, in serious but not necessarily life-threatening situations.

The Justice Department contends that under Idaho’s law, physicians providing abortions remain vulnerable to arrest and criminal prosecution. The law offers no defense beyond situations essential to preventing imminent death, leaving the health of the pregnant patient without legal protection.

Following a preliminary injunction issued by a federal judge in Boise in August 2022, blocking the state law on the grounds of putting doctors in a difficult position, the US Supreme Court’s decision reaffirms the autonomy of states in crafting their own abortion laws.

Recently, a Texas woman faced challenges accessing emergency abortion care due to restrictive state laws, forcing her to seek treatment outside the state. Texas physicians providing abortions can face severe penalties, including up to 99 years in prison, fines up to $100,000, and the revocation of their medical license.

Under Idaho’s “Defense of Life Act,” those performing abortions may be subject to five years in prison. President Joe Biden criticized the Supreme Court’s decision, stating that it allows Idaho’s extreme abortion ban to take effect, depriving women of critical emergency care mandated by federal law. He highlighted the broader implications of the court’s 2022 decision, enabling states to pursue restrictive abortion laws that jeopardize women’s health and impede access to medical care.

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