United States

Supreme Court acknowledges accidentally posting Idaho abortion case document that may preview Biden administration win

Author: Editors Desk, Lawrence Hurley Source: NBC News
June 26, 2024 at 14:53

A copy of the document posted online and then removed suggested that the court will dismiss the dispute over Idaho abortion law, meaning emergency room doctors can perform abortions in Idaho.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday acknowledged that it inadvertently posted online a document related to a pending abortion case, which was obtained by Bloomberg Law before it was removed from the website.

Supreme Court spokeswoman Patricia McCabe confirmed that a document was “inadvertently and briefly uploaded” to the court website, but added that the ruling “has not been released.”

Bloomberg also posted a copy of the document. NBC News could not independently verify the document. It is not known if it was a draft decision, the actual decision or neither.


Reproductive rights activists demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court
Reproductive rights activists demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court on June 24, 2024.Jim Watson / AFP via Getty Images

The court appears set to allow emergency room doctors in Idaho to perform abortions in certain situations according to a copy of the decision, Bloomberg reported. The court is likely to dismiss the appeal brought by Idaho officials, Bloomberg said.

In doing so the court will allow a lower court ruling in favor of the Biden administration to go back into effect. Three conservative justices, Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Samuel Alito and Justice Neil Gorsuch object to that conclusion, Bloomberg reported.

The Supreme Court in January blocked the lower court ruling and allowed Idaho to enforce its abortion law in full while agreeing to hear oral arguments in the case. Other provisions of the ban are already in effect and will not be affected by the ruling.

The case concerns whether a federal law that regulates emergency room treatment overrides Idaho's strict abortion ban. But if the court dismisses the appeal, the decision would leave the legal question unresolved.

Bloomberg reported that liberal Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote separately to say the court should have gone ahead and decided the bigger issue, which is likely to come up in another case in due course and would have an impact on other states with similar abortion restrictions as Idaho.

"Today’s decision is not a victory for pregnant patients in Idaho. It is delay,” she wrote, according to Bloomberg. “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," she added.

Idaho’s law says anyone who performs an abortion is subject to criminal penalties, including up to five years in prison. Health care professionals found to have violated the law can lose their professional licenses.

The federal government sued, leading a federal judge in August 2022 to block the state from enforcing provisions concerning medical care that is required under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA.

That 1986 law mandates that patients receive appropriate emergency room care. The Biden administration argued that care should include abortions in certain situations when a woman’s health is imperiled even if death is not imminent.

The Supreme Court is due to issue rulings on Thursday and Friday as it reaches the end of its current term. The abortion case is one of 12 argued cases yet to be decided.

Lawrence Hurley covers the Supreme Court for NBC News.

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