NATIONAL NEWS

Supreme Court appears skeptical that state abortion bans conflict with federal health care law

Apr 24, 2024, 6:54 PM | Updated: 6:57 pm

Photo: Anti-abortion activists rally outside the Supreme Court on April 24....

Anti-abortion activists rally outside the Supreme Court on April 24. (Photo: Jose Luis Magana, AP)

(Photo: Jose Luis Magana, AP)

Conservative Supreme Court justices appeared skeptical Wednesday that state abortion bans taking effect after their sweeping ruling overturning Roe v. Wade violate federal healthcare law, though some also questioned the effects on emergency pregnancy care.

The case marks the first time the Supreme Court has considered the implications of a state ban since overturning the nationwide right to abortion. It comes from Idaho, which is among 14 states that now ban abortion at all stages of pregnancy with very limited exceptions.

The high court has already allowed the state ban to go into effect, even in medical emergencies, and it was unclear whether members of the conservative majority were swayed by the Biden administration’s argument that federal law overrides the state in rare emergency cases where a pregnant patient’s health is at serious risk.

The Justice Department says abortion care must be allowed in those cases under a law that requires hospitals accepting Medicare to provide emergency care regardless of patients’ ability to pay.

Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the decision overturning Roe v. Wade, was doubtful. “How can you impose restrictions on what Idaho can criminalize, simply because hospitals in Idaho have chosen to participate in Medicare?” he said.

Justices on the high court’s liberal minority, meanwhile, aired arguments that Idaho’s law was putting women’s health at risk.

“Within these rare cases, there’s a significant number where the woman’s life is not in peril, but she’s going to lose her reproductive organs. She’s going to lose the ability to have children in the future unless an abortion takes place,” said Justice Elena Kagan.

The Biden administration argues that even in states where abortion is banned, federal health care law says hospitals must be allowed to terminate pregnancies in rare emergencies where a patient’s life or health is at serious risk.

Idaho contends its ban has exceptions for life-saving abortion but allowing it in more medical emergencies would turn hospitals into “abortion enclaves.” The state argues the Biden administration is misusing a health care law that is meant to ensure patients aren’t turned away based on their ability to pay.

The Supreme Court has allowed the Idaho law to go into effect, even during emergencies, as the case has played out. It makes performing an abortion a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Dueling protests were taking shape outside the court before the start of arguments on Wednesday. “Abortion saves lives,” read signs displayed by abortion rights supporters. Opponents displayed a sign that read, “Emergency rooms are not abortion clinics.”

Doctors have said Idaho’s abortion ban has already affected emergency care. More women whose conditions are typically treated with abortions must now be flown out of state for care, since doctors must wait until they are close to death to provide abortions within the bounds of state law.

Meanwhile, complaints of pregnant women being turned away from U.S. emergency rooms spiked after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, according to federal documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Anti-abortion groups blame doctors for mishandling maternal emergency cases. Idaho argues the Biden administration overstates health care woes to undermine state abortion laws.

The justices also heard another abortion case this term seeking to restrict access to abortion medication. It remains pending, though the justices overall seemed skeptical of the push.

The Justice Department originally brought the case against Idaho, arguing the state’s abortion law conflicts with the 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, known as EMTALA. It requires hospitals that accept Medicare to provide emergency care to any patient regardless of their ability to pay. Nearly all hospitals accept Medicare.

A federal judge initially sided with the administration and ruled that abortions were legal in medical emergencies. After the state appealed, the Supreme Court allowed the law to go fully into effect in January.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule by the end of June.

National News

Associated Press

Amazon gets FAA approval that allows it to expand drone deliveries for online orders

Federal regulators have given Amazon key permission that will allow it to expand its drone delivery program, the company announced Thursday. In a blog post posted on its website, Seattle-based Amazon said that the Federal Aviation Administration has given its Prime Air delivery service the OK to operate drones “beyond visual line of sight,” removing […]

5 minutes ago

Associated Press

One Tech Tip: Want to turn off Meta AI? You can’t — but there are some workarounds

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — If you use Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram, you’ve probably noticed a new character pop up answering search queries or eagerly offering tidbits of information in your feeds, with varying degrees of accuracy. It’s Meta AI, and it’s here to help, at least according to Meta Platforms’ CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who calls […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Stock market today: Wall Street lower on interest rate anxiety ahead of next update on US inflation

Wall Street stumbled again early Thursday as hopes for interest rate cuts slowly fade with the Federal Reserve seemingly resolute in its mission to curb inflation. Futures for the S&P 500 slipped 0.4% before the bell, while Dow Jones Industrial Average futures sank 0.9%. There’s been little economic data this week to distract investors from […]

7 hours ago

Associated Press

The Latest | 2 soldiers are killed in a West Bank car-ramming attack, Israeli military says

The Israeli military said Thursday that two soldiers were killed in a car-ramming attack in the occupied West Bank. Violence in the West Bank has surged throughout the war in Gaza as Israel raids Palestinian towns in the territory to crack down on militancy, with incursions resulting in the deaths of more than 500 Palestinians. […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

Jurors in Trump’s hush money trial zero in on testimony of key witnesses as deliberations resume

NEW YORK (AP) — The jury in former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial is to resume deliberations Thursday after asking to rehear potentially crucial testimony about the alleged scheme at the heart of the history-making case. The 12-person jury deliberated for about 4 1/2 hours on Wednesday without reaching a verdict. Besides asking to […]

11 hours ago

Associated Press

Disneyland performers’ vote to unionize is certified by federal labor officials

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Character and parade performers at Disneyland in California are officially unionized. Federal labor officials said Wednesday that they’ve certified the results of a three-day election that took place earlier this month in Anaheim. Actors’ Equity Association will represent roughly 1,700 performers and assistants who help bring Disney’s popular characters to life […]

15 hours ago

Supreme Court appears skeptical that state abortion bans conflict with federal health care law