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Clouds are seen above the U.S. Supreme Court building on May 17, 2021 in Washington, D.C.Drew Angerer / Staff / Getty

WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) — Oral arguments began on Wednesday before the U.S. Supreme Court over the Biden administration’s efforts to force emergency room doctors in Idaho to participate in abortions under the guise of “medical necessity,” in a case that could have nationwide implications for both pro-life laws and conscience rights.

In August 2022, the administration filed a lawsuit contending that the federal Emergency Medical Treatment & Active Labor Act (EMTALA) overrides Idaho’s pro-life laws and requires emergency room doctors to commit abortions that would otherwise be illegal under state law. A lower court sided with the White House, prompting the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case and allow Idaho to continue to enforce its pro-life laws until it is resolved.

Earlier this month, Idaho Republican Attorney General Raúl Labrador, along with attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and the law firm Cooper & Kirk, filed their reply brief with the nation’s highest court, laying out the case that the administration misreads and misapplies EMTALA in numerous ways, including that the law does not require procedures that violate state law, does not mandate services a particular hospital does not offer, and in fact requires hospitals to provide care for preborn children.

Every state in the union with abortion prohibitions currently in effect also permits doctors to administer life-saving treatment to pregnant women, even if it comes at the expense of a baby’s life. Intentionally, directly killing a baby is never justifiable, and numerous medical experts attest that it is never medically necessary.

Idaho law allows abortion if a physician deems it “necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman,” while requiring him to use a method that “provided the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive, unless, in his good faith medical judgment, termination of the pregnancy in that manner would have posed a greater risk of the death of the pregnant woman.”

Several justices pressed Idaho Solicitor General Joshua Turner, who was presenting the state’s case, on whether various medical hypotheticals would pose a conflict between Idaho law and EMTALA’s mandate to provide “necessary stabilizing treatment,” such as where a woman was allegedly at risk of lifelong harms but not death.

Turner argued that the “guiding star” to the question was a previous case, Planned Parenthood v. Wasden, in which he said the Idaho Supreme Court “made clear, that there is no medical certainty requirement” and that doctors can legally commit abortions even when a mother is not allegedly “facing death.” U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar claimed that Idaho law’s rules for “medical necessity” were “materially narrower” than EMTALA’s.

Justice Neil Gorsuch expressed doubt as to why Idaho’s law should be thrown out when the federal government could avail itself of far narrower enforcement actions against individual hospitals found guilty of specific EMTALA violations, from federal funding to medical licensing. He and Justice Samuel Alito also both noted that EMTALA expressly recognizes “unborn child.”

“Isn’t that an odd phrase to put in a statute that imposes a mandate to perform abortions?” Alito asked. “Have you ever seen an abortion statute that uses the phrase ‘unborn child’?” Prelogar maintained that with EMTALA, Congress only “wanted to expand the protection for pregnant women” when both their own and their children’s health was in peril, but “did nothing to displace the woman herself as an individual with an emergency medical condition.”

In the federal law, “the term ‘emergency medical condition’ is defined to include a condition that places the health of the woman’s unborn child in serious jeopardy,” Alito elaborated. “So, in that situation, the hospital must stabilize the threat to the unborn child. And it seems that the plain meaning is that the hospital must try to eliminate any immediate threat to the child, but performing an abortion is antithetical to that duty.”

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett questioned whether EMTALA’s requirements as interpreted by the Biden administration conflicted with medical practitioners’ conscience rights. Prelogar said a hospital could not “force an individual doctor to step in then over a conscience objection” but might lose Medicare funding if it displayed a pattern of having nobody in its emergency rooms willing to commit “emergency” abortions.

After oral arguments, AG Labrador spoke to the press outside the Supreme Court about the Gem State’s position.

“The administration’s radical interpretation of federal law is nothing more than a lawless disregard for Idaho’s right to protect life,” he said. “Idaho’s Defense of Life Act is perfectly consistent with the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, which provides explicit protections for ‘unborn children’ in four separate places. But the Biden administration is trying to use one life-affirming law to invalidate another. We are asking the Supreme Court to end the administration’s unlawful overreach and to respect the decision of the people of Idaho to safeguard the lives of women and their unborn children.”

President Joe Biden has vowed to “restore Roe v. Wade as the law of the land again” if the fall elections reelect him and give him enough votes in Congress to codify a nationwide “right” to abortion, with his administration touting a “whole-of-government effort to protect reproductive rights” (a popular euphemism for legal abortion on demand), including increased taxpayer funding for abortion at home and abroad and attempted waiving of federal safety rules against distributing abortion pills by mail.

The Supreme Court is expected to reach its decision in Idaho v. United States this summer.