US Supreme Court allows emergency abortions in Idaho - reopening constitutional question

The US Supreme Court has ruled that emergency abortions in Idaho can go ahead.

When a patient's health is at serious risk, hospitals in the northwestern state, for now, are allowed to perform emergency abortions.

This comes almost exactly two years after the landmark overturning of Roe v Wade, after which Idaho was among 14 states that outlawed abortion at all stages of pregnancy with incredibly limited exceptions.

The US justices found they had pre-emptively got involved in the case, and a 6-3 majority reinstated a lower court order that had allowed hospitals in the state to perform emergency abortions to protect a patient's health.

The opinion, coming during an election year, means the Idaho case will continue to play out in lower courts, and could end up before the Supreme Court once again.

The same justices who voted to overturn the constitutional right to abortion could soon be again considering when doctors can provide abortion in medical emergencies - meaning the issue is still far from settled.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson said: "Today's decision is not a victory for pregnant patients in Idaho. It is delay.

"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."

Conservative judge Samuel Alito, who was key in the initial decision overturning Roe v. Wade, also disagreed with the decision to dismiss the case - though for different reasons than Justice Jackson.

Joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, he suggested the court should side with Idaho

The limited ruling seemingly attempts to sidestep putting the issue centre stage during an election year where abortion rights have been a contentious topic.

The court ruling is expected to have a significant effect on emergency care in other states with strict abortion bans.

The Supreme Court previously allowed the ban, which does permit abortion to save a pregnant patient's life, to go into effect.

But since then, several women have needed medical airlifts out of state in cases where abortion is a routine treatment to avoid infection, haemorrhage and other dire health risks, Idaho doctors have said.

It was previously reported by Bloomberg that the Supreme Court briefly posted the opinion on the court's website, before taking it down.

The Supreme Court acknowledged a document was inadvertently posted before the decision was confirmed Thursday.

President Joe Biden, in a statement, said: "Today's Supreme Court order ensures that women in Idaho can access the emergency medical care they need while this case returns to the lower courts.

"No woman should be denied care, made to wait until she's near death, or forced to flee her home state just to receive the health care she needs.

"This should never happen in America. Yet, this is exactly what is happening in states across the country since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade."

However, the procedural ruling has left key questions unanswered and it does not resolve the issues at the heart of the case.

Most Republican-controlled states began enforcing abortion restrictions two years ago - in the aftermath of the constitutional ruling.

Since then, there has been an increase in reports of pregnant women being turned away from US emergency rooms.

In a statement, Donald Trump's national press secretary Karoline Leavitt claimed President Biden and the Democrats were "out of touch" with the average American over the issue.

She added: "President Trump has long been consistent in supporting the rights of states to make decisions on abortion."

The Biden-Harris 2024 campaign released a new TV attack ad in the fallout from Thursday's decision, reminding voters that more than 20 abortion bans remain in effect.

The ad features a testimonial from Dr Lauren Miller, a high-risk obstetrician who decided to leave Idaho because of the extreme abortion ban, which left her facing potential criminal charges for treating her patients - even in cases to protect their lives.