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Ferguson argues Idaho’s near-total abortion ban violates federal law

Washington joins other states in support of federal government challenge to Idaho law

SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today joined a coalition of 21 attorneys general to file a friend of the court brief supporting the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit challenging Idaho’s restrictive new abortion law. The law is set to go into effect later this month.

The lawsuit asserts that because Idaho’s law does not have adequate exemptions for emergency, lifesaving care to protect the health of pregnant people, it violates the federal Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA). EMTALA requires hospitals to provide emergency care to all patients. Patients cannot be turned away or denied care until they are stabilized. In some cases, such lifesaving care may include abortion care — for example, when a patient is experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, a miscarriage or other pregnancy complications.

Ferguson argues that Washington’s health care system will be further strained by an influx of patients traveling to Washington for health care that will be prohibited in Idaho. Ferguson also argues that Idaho’s restrictive new law denies Washingtonians federally required emergency care if they are in Idaho as students, workers or visitors.

“We are already seeing a significant influx of Idahoans seeking abortion services in Washington, and that will only increase with this new, restrictive law,” Ferguson said. “What happens in Idaho directly impacts Washington. Not only is Idaho’s near-total ban on abortion wrong, it violates federal law.”

Ferguson also joined a second friend of the court brief today defending EMTALA in a case filed by the state of Texas and several anti-abortion organizations challenging the federal government’s ability to enforce the federal law in Texas.

Texas’ lawsuit seeks to block enforcement of guidance from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Department of Health & Human Services reminding hospitals of their obligations under EMTALA.

Idaho’s law will worsen impacts on Washingtonians

Ferguson’s brief argues that Washington clinics are already impacted by patients traveling from Idaho without the new law, a situation that will only get worse if the law is allowed to go into effect on Aug. 25.

“In Eastern Washington, clinics have already reported a massive influx of patients from Idaho: one clinic reported that 78% of its patients in July 2022 were from Idaho (almost double the rate from the prior year), and another clinic reported that it was already fully booked multiple weeks out due to increased demand,” the brief states.

Providing emergency care to an influx of Idaho patients will further impact an already pandemic-strained health care system in states like Washington and Oregon, the brief argues.

“Emergency rooms in Oregon and Washington will inevitably need to absorb the out-of-state patient need for care that Idaho’s law will cause, at a time when the states continue to wrestle with an ongoing global pandemic and new public health crises. Emergency departments are already faced with overcrowding, long wait times, and staff shortages, especially in rural and underserved areas such as those parts of Oregon and Washington that share a border with Idaho.  An additional influx of patients needing urgent care to address an emergency medical condition will only add to these concerns.”

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Washington’s Attorney General serves the people and the state of Washington. As the state’s largest law firm, the Attorney General’s Office provides legal representation to every state agency, board, and commission in Washington. Additionally, the Office serves the people directly by enforcing consumer protection, civil rights, and environmental protection laws. The Office also prosecutes elder abuse, Medicaid fraud, and handles sexually violent predator cases in 38 of Washington’s 39 counties. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.

 

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Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.aho@atg.wa.gov

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