News Release

At the Supreme Court: What’s at Stake for Emergency Abortion Care?

On April 24, the Supreme Court will hear Idaho v. United States—the second case this term involving access to abortion. In a new brief, KFF examines what’s at stake, focusing on whether the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA)—a federal law requiring nearly all hospitals to ensure emergency room patients are stable before they are discharged from hospital care—preempts state abortion laws. 

The new brief reviews the background on the case and EMTALA, including guidance from the Biden Administration, legal challenges, the issues the Supreme Court will consider, and the potential impact of a ruling.

Idaho has an abortion ban that only includes an exception to save the pregnant person’s life and argues that EMTALA does not preempt its ban. In states with abortion bans that don’t have an exception for health, a hospital, can’t under state law, provide abortion as a stabilizing treatment for a pregnant patient presenting with conditions that risk severe and lasting harms, such as sepsis, kidney failure, and fertility loss. Idaho contends there is no conflict between state and federal law, since EMTALA requires physicians to do everything possible to preserve the life of both the pregnant person and their fetus. 

The Biden Administration considers abortion care to protect the health of a pregnant person—not only to save a life—an integral component of the type of stabilizing treatment that EMTALA requires hospitals to provide. A ruling in favor of the federal government would mean pregnant patients could obtain abortion care if needed to stabilize their health in hospital emergency rooms throughout the country, even in states with an abortion ban that only has a life exception.

KFF Headquarters: 185 Berry St., Suite 2000, San Francisco, CA 94107 | Phone 650-854-9400
Washington Offices and Barbara Jordan Conference Center: 1330 G Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005 | Phone 202-347-5270 | Email Alerts: | |

The independent source for health policy research, polling, and news, KFF is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.