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Supreme Court inadvertently posts Idaho abortion case document

Court press office said the opinion in the cases would be released 'in due course'

Health care workers hold signs outside of the Supreme Court before oral arguments in April in a case about Idaho's abortion law and a federal law about emergency room treatment.
Health care workers hold signs outside of the Supreme Court before oral arguments in April in a case about Idaho's abortion law and a federal law about emergency room treatment. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Supreme Court inadvertently posted on its website briefly Wednesday morning a version of an opinion that one news report suggested would for now prevent Idaho from enforcing its abortion ban in emergency rooms.

Bloomberg News reported that the court briefly posted an opinion in one of the two cases about the state’s abortion law and its interaction with the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, or EMTALA.

The court hasn’t announced an opinion, meaning the briefly posted version isn’t necessarily the final ruling. Bloomberg reported that it got the copy that appeared briefly on the court’s website as the justices were issuing two other opinions Wednesday morning, and a reporter later published the document.

The court’s public information office said Wednesday that an opinion in the two cases, Moyle v. United States and Idaho v. United States, had not yet been released. But the statement did acknowledge that one of its offices “inadvertently and briefly uploaded a document to the Court’s website.”

The office said the court’s opinion in the cases would be released “in due course.”

The incident marks the second time in recent years that the public got a sneak peek at what the court might decide in an abortion case. Politico published a draft version of a 2022 decision overturning the constitutional right to an abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Bloomberg News reported Wednesday that the briefly posted version “indicated the majority will dismiss the case as ‘improvidently granted.’”

Such a ruling would effectively allow a lower court ruling to go back into effect, which would mean the state couldn’t implement its abortion ban in emergency rooms as the case plays out further in lower courts.

The lower court found that the federal law required hospitals to potentially provide abortions in emergency care to preserve the health of the woman.

Idaho had asked the Supreme Court to weigh in, and the justices allowed the state to enforce its near-total ban on abortion while considering the case.

If the draft decision represents the justices’ final ruling in the cases, it could allow the Biden administration’s dispute with the state to continue at the lower court and U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

Under Idaho’s law, abortions are prohibited except when “necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman” and in cases of rape and incest. Physicians who violate the law could have their medical license temporarily or permanently suspended.

The Biden administration argued that EMTALA required “stabilizing” care in emergency situations, which could include abortion even if the woman’s life is not immediately in danger.

EMTALA is a 1986 law that requires hospitals to provide “necessary stabilizing treatment” to all patients as a condition of receiving Medicare funding.

The Biden administration has turned to the statute in response to multiple states passing laws restricting abortion following the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in Dobbs.

The issue could soon return to the Supreme Court, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled earlier this year that EMTALA did not mandate abortion care.