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Moyle v. United States; State of Idaho v. United States

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) requires Medicare-funded hospitals to screen patients who come to the emergency room for emergency medical conditions and to provide the treatment necessary to stabilize the emergency medical condition. When the treatment needed to stabilize an emergency medical condition and prevent a serious health risk to a pregnant patient is termination of the pregnancy, EMTALA requires that stabilizing treatment to be provided.

Idaho law makes it unlawful for hospitals to provide abortions unless necessary to save a patient’s life or in the case of ectopic or molar pregnancies. The federal government brought suit against Idaho seeking a declaration that EMTALA preempts Idaho law because EMTALA requires abortions in emergency situations in which Idaho law prohibits them. The district court agreed with the federal government, and Idaho sought review in the Supreme Court.

Public Citizen filed an amicus brief supporting the federal government. The brief explains that the federal statute preempts the Idaho law to the extent that the laws conflict with one another. Moreover, although EMTALA is an exercise of Congress’s spending power, under which federal requirements are imposed only on those who accept federal funds, federal requirements preempt conflicting state requirements in the same manner as federal requirements imposed under Congress’s other powers.