Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on an ongoing challenge to the state’s strict abortion law, asking the court to grant authorities the right to prosecute doctors who provide abortions for any reason other than to prevent a patient’s death.
Labrador and Alliance Defending Freedom, an advocacy group for conservative Christian legal policy, appealed to the nation’s highest court Monday, asking the justices to allow Idaho’s law to take full effect while a federal lawsuit moves forward.
In August 2022, the U.S. Justice Department sued Idaho and argued that its near-total abortion ban violated a federal law that requires hospitals to provide stabilizing care to patients. U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled in part against the state and blocked Idaho’s ability to prosecute over abortions performed in emergencies.
Idaho’s law bans abortions unless a doctor can prove in court that the pregnant person would have died from the pregnancy, or that it was the result of reported incest or rape. The Justice Department has argued that Idaho’s abortion law conflicts with the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), which would protect abortion procedures not just in life-threatening conditions but in conditions when a patient’s health is seriously jeopardized.
A panel of three judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s order in September, allowing the law to take effect. Days later, a larger panel from the 9th Circuit agreed to hear the appeal, and reapplied the hold that prevents the law from taking effect.
Arguments for that appeal are scheduled for January, and Labrador asked the Supreme Court to allow the law to take effect until a ruling is made.
The Supreme Court undid a half-century of precedent last year when it overturned Roe v. Wade, a landmark case that guaranteed abortion rights in the U.S. The court has swung to the right in recent years, as six of the nine justices take largely conservative stances, and were appointed by Republican presidents.
The court’s Roe v. Wade decision gave states the ability to regulation abortion and has led to a patchwork of legal conditions and litigation around the country. Many states quickly moved to largely ban abortion, while others have bolstered the rights of pregnant people to terminate their pregnancies. Voters in Ohio added abortion rights to the state’s constitution in its November election.
Alliance Defending Freedom has become increasingly prominent on the right in recent years, and one of Labrador’s top attorneys, Lincoln Wilson, left his office in October to become a senior attorney at the organization.
The advocacy group opposes gay marriage and has previously supported state sodomy laws. U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, worked for the group in the mid-2000s, when it was known as the Alliance Defense Fund.