The Justice Department sues Idaho over its abortion restrictions in first challenge since Roe v. Wade was overturned

The Justice Department sues Idaho over its abortion restrictions in first challenge since Roe v. Wade was overturned
Attorney General Merrick GarlandChip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • The DOJ filed a lawsuit against Idaho over its abortion ban set to go into effect later this month.
  • Attorney General Merrick Garland said the ban violates federal law.

The Department of Justice on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Idaho for its near-total abortion ban, arguing the ban violates federal law — the first legal challenge from the Biden administration since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the new suit during a Tuesday press conference. The abortion ban — set to take effect later this month — violates federal law that requires medical providers to give emergency medical treatment when necessary, Garland said.

Idaho's ban would make it illegal for pregnant people who need abortions in emergency situations to receive the potentially lifesaving procedure.

Garland said that when a hospital determines that an abortion is appropriate medical care to save the life of a pregnant person, federal law requires the procedure to be performed.

"If a patient comes into the emergency room with a medical emergency jeopardizing the patient's life or health, the hospital must provide the treatment necessary to stabilize that patient. This includes abortion," Garland said.


The action comes after the Supreme Court on June 24 overturned the constitutional right to abortion that had been in place for nearly 50 years. Since Roe's fall, and the overruling of a subsequent 1992 abortion ruling Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a slew of Republican-led states have banned abortion, with more restrictions to come.

"On the day Roe and Casey were overturned, we promised that the Justice Department would work tirelessly to protect and advance reproductive freedom," Garland said. "We will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that pregnant women get the emergency medical treatment to which they are entitled under federal law."

President Joe Biden last month signed an executive order in a bid to protect abortion access, which included instructing the Health and Human Services Department to ensure pregnant women receive emergency healthcare.

"Under the law, no matter where you live, women have the right to emergency care — including abortion care," HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said at the time. "Today, in no uncertain terms, we are reinforcing that we expect providers to continue offering these services, and that federal law preempts state abortion bans when needed for emergency care."

Garland added that the DOJ will continue to scrutinize state laws to ensure they comply with federal law.


"One critical focus of the Reproductive Rights Task Force has been assessing the fast-changing landscape of state laws and evaluating potential legal responses to infringements on federal protections," Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta added in a press release. "Today's lawsuit against the State of Idaho for its near-absolute abortion ban is the first public example of this work in action."