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Continued Access to Emergency Abortion Care

June 27, 2024

Supreme Court of the United States
Supreme Court of the United States

“The opinion does not explain why the Court took this procedural punt,” said Prof. Allison K. Hoffman.

The Supreme Court has dismissed Moyle v. United States, allowing doctors in Idaho to continue providing abortions in emergency medical situations.

Allison K. Hoffman, Professor of Law and Deputy Dean at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, where she is an expert on health law and policy, offered the following statement:

Allison K. Hoffman, Professor of Law & Deputy Dean Allison K. Hoffman, Professor of Law & Deputy DeanThe Supreme Court, in a per curiam opinion, has decided not to decide on Moyle v. U.S., saying that its accepting the case was “improvidently granted.” The Court also vacated its stay of the opinion below, meaning that, for now, the Idaho law is again unenforceable to the extent that it conflicts with EMTALA, and abortions are legal if necessary to avoid serious jeopardy to a pregnant person’s health. Providers in Idaho continue to operate in a risky environment but, at least for now, the district court’s opinion allows them to provide abortions when necessary to stabilize an emergency medical condition.

The opinion does not explain why the Court took this procedural punt, but the concurring and dissenting opinions give a window into the strong disagreement among the Justices on this case. Justice Barrett’s concurrence (joined by Justices Roberts and Kavanaugh) suggests that the parties position shifted sufficiently during the course of litigation to reduce conflict between the Idaho law and EMTALA, yet Justice Kagan’s concurrence and Justice Alito’s dissent make clear that sufficient conflict remains—although Justice Kagan would resolve that conflict in favor of EMTALA and Justice Alito in favor of Idaho’s law.

Justice Jackson’s sharp opinion put it best: “Today’s decision is not a victory for pregnant patients in Idaho. It is delay. While this Court dawdles and the country waits, pregnant people experiencing emergency medical conditions remain in a precarious position, as their doctors are kept in the dark about what the law requires.”

The case will continue to be heard on its merits by the courts below and could make its way back to the Supreme Court in the future.

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