‘This is not a time for applause’: Advocates on both sides of abortion issue slam SCOTUS ruling

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(WASHINGTON) — Despite the U.S. Supreme Court issuing a decision allowing emergency abortions in Idaho, many pro-abortion groups criticized Thursday’s ruling and said it was far from a win for abortion rights.

“This is not a time for applause for the way that the court has functioned,” Fatima Goss Graves, the CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, said in a briefing with reporters. “This is a crisis of the court’s making.”

“We definitely deserve better from our court,” Goss Graves said.

The decision was the first time the court weighed in on abortion since it overturned Roe v. Wade two years ago, ending federal protections for abortion rights. Since then, at least 14 states have ceased nearly all abortions and seven other states have imposed restrictions on care.

While the ruling will allow abortions to resume in cases of medical emergencies, abortion rights advocates criticized the court opinion, saying the ruling did not address the merits of the case and failed to find that patients are entitled to emergency abortion care to protect their health and lives.

“While the opinion temporarily restores the ability of doctors in Idaho to provide emergency abortions required under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), by dismissing Idaho’s appeal without resolving the core issues in the case, SCOTUS will only continue to put pregnant patients at unnecessary risk,” the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement.

Advocates also argued that the decision is “the bare minimum” and the court should have been more clear in ruling that EMTALA protects abortion in emergency situations across all states.

“The fact that this case was before the Court and remains open to further litigation tells us everything we need to know about the anti-abortion movement: They would rather let pregnant people suffer life-threatening health consequences than allow them to receive stabilizing abortion care,” Destiny Lopez, the acting co-CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, said in a statement.

“This outcome does not remedy the harm that the Court’s anti-abortion justices inflicted with the Dobbs decision two years ago,” Lopez said.

Of the states restricting abortion, at least seven do not have clear exceptions for emergency care.

“The courts caused a months-long catastrophe that was completely unnecessary,” President of Planned Parenthood Alexis McGill Johnson told reporters.

“They had the opportunity to bring clarity to the chaos they caused … but they missed the mark,” McGill Johnson said.

The case now returns to the Ninth Circuit where it will be further litigated.

“The Court could have upheld this basic right, but they refused to. Instead, the conservative majority kicked the case back to a lower court, punting so that they didn’t need to weigh in before an election where attacks on abortion access are already top of mind for voters,” Reproductive Freedom for All, a pro-abortion group, said in a statement Thursday.

The Center for Reproductive Rights told reporters that the Thursday decision does not impact access to abortion in the 20 other states with restrictions or bans in effect — and a case over EMTALA could be back before the court next session.

Texas sued the U.S. government over EMTALA guidance, and the Fifth Circuit court successfully blocked the guidance.

Advocates issued warnings that echoed reactions to the court’s decision striking down an abortion pill ruling this month.

“Several justices provided a roadmap for just how they would strip pregnant people of this basic right when this case comes back to the Court,” Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement.

Anti-abortion group Americans United for Life, meanwhile, called the ruling “highly fractured.”

“The Court recognized based on representations by the Biden administration that Idaho may continue to enforce its pro-life law, and the rights of pro-life doctors and nurses will be respected in all circumstances as federal law requires. The case will develop further in the lower courts and the Supreme Court seems ready, willing, and able to review the case again once an appropriate factual record based upon the Biden administration’s actual position is developed,” said Steven Aden, chief legal officer and general counsel.

Another anti-abortion group called the decision “a setback.”

“Today’s Supreme Court decision is a setback, but our fight for babies and moms continues,” National Right to Life said in a statement. “With its sound ‘life of the mother’ provision that allows pregnant women to receive emergency care, Idaho’s pro-life law is consistent with EMTALA which requires hospitals to provide stabilizing treatment to both mothers and unborn children. Under Attorney General Raul Labrador’s leadership, we are confident Idaho will eventually prevail on the merits of this case.”

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