SF Firms Join ACLU in Amicus Brief Challenging Idaho ‘Defense of Life’ Law that Denies Emergency Abortion Care

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By The Vanguard Staff

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Cooley LLP’ San Francisco office Friday announced it has joined the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and ACLU of Idaho in the filing of an amicus brief with the US Supreme Court in Idaho and Moyle, et al. v. United States, “in support of allowing emergency abortion care to any patient who needs it.”

Lawyers Kathleen Hartnett, out of Cooley’s SF office, and Patrick Hayden, from the DC Cooley office, were named as leaders for Cooley, LLP, which has 19 offices in the U.S., including 1,300 lawyers.

In in statement Friday, Cooley noted the Department of Justice sued Idaho in 2022, “arguing that the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) preempts Idaho’s Defense of Life Act, which prohibits abortion care even when necessary to protect the health of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency.” 

Cooley added a district court enjoined enforcement of the act, but Idaho’s attorney general and legislature appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, which took the case in January 2024.

In short, Cooley said the “amicus brief explains that Idaho’s arguments contravene the plain text of the EMTALA, which preempts state laws that would deny necessary stabilizing treatment – including abortion care – to all individuals who arrive at hospitals experiencing medical emergencies. 

“The amicus brief notes that all three branches of the federal government have long recognized that hospitals are required under federal law to provide emergency abortion care to any patient who needs it.”

“The EMTALA provides important and long-standing protections for all patients with emergency conditions and has no carve out for the rare circumstances in which emergency abortion care is required,” said Hartnett. 

“If doctors are prevented from providing emergency abortion care, people can suffer severe, life-altering health consequences and even die. We are urging the Supreme Court to ensure hospitals can continue to provide the emergency care federal law requires,” Hartnett added.

The brief notes, “This case is not a referendum on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, 597 U.S. 215 (2022). It requires neither the application of that case, nor a deviation from it. Rather, this case involves the straightforward application of a longstanding federal statutory mandate to provide necessary stabilizing treatment during emergencies, and its preemptive effect on a state law blocking that treatment.”

The pleading also reads, “Nearly forty years ago, Congress enacted EMTALA, 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd, in response to the widespread problem of hospitals refusing to provide emergency medical treatment to individuals in need of care—either at all, or by inappropriately transferring (or ‘dumping’) individuals from one hospital to the next, while their conditions worsened. 

For this nationwide problem, Congress created a nationwide solution: a federal law requiring all hospitals with emergency departments that participate in the Medicare program to provide all individuals, regardless of where they live, with “(n)ecessary stabilizing treatment for emergency medical conditions and labor.”

The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments on the case April 24, said Cooley LLP.

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