After report on abortion in Idaho, Supreme Court admits document "briefly" uploaded

Washington — The Supreme Court said Wednesday that a document was “inadvertently and briefly” uploaded to its website after Bloomberg News reported that a copy of an opinion in a highly anticipated case involving Idaho’s near-total ban on abortion was posted online.

The opinion, in a pair of cases that pit Idaho’s law against a federal measure that requires hospitals that receive Medicare funds to perform emergency abortions, would reinstate a lower court order that blocked Idaho from enforcing its near-total ban when an abortion is needed to preserve the health of the mother, according to Bloomberg. 

The news outlet said the copy of the opinion, posted Wednesday, indicated the court will dismiss Idaho’s appeal in a 6-3 split, with Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch in dissent. The final decision in the cases, known as Moyle v. U.S. and Idaho v. U.S., is set to be released in the coming days as the Supreme Court nears the end of its term.

A spokesperson for the Supreme Court said in a statement that the opinion in the cases “has not been released.”

“The Court’s Publications Unit inadvertently and briefly uploaded a document to the Court’s website,” the spokesperson said. “The Court’s opinion in these cases will be issued in due course.”

A copy of the opinion posted by Bloomberg, which is not final, shows it is per curiam, or by the court. Justice Elena Kagan authored a concurring opinion, joined in full by Justice Sonia Sotomayor and in part by Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, according to the copy.

Kagan wrote that the court’s decision “will prevent Idaho from enforcing its abortion ban when the termination of a pregnancy is needed to prevent serious harms to a woman’s health.” Allowing the district court’s injunction to go back into effect “will give Idaho women access to all the needed medical treatments that EMTALA guarantees,” she continued.

The posted copy indicates that Justice Amy Coney Barrett also issued a concurring opinion that was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Barrett wrote that since the Supreme Court agreed in January to step into the case, the parties’ positions have “rendered the scope of the dispute unclear, at best.”

The decision obtained by Bloomberg shows that in his dissent, Alito accused the majority of doing an “about-face” that he called “baffling.”

“Apparently, the court has simply lost the will to decide the easy but emotional and highly politicized question that the case presents,” Alito, joined by Thomas and Gorsuch, wrote, according to the posted copy.

The dispute was the first in which the Supreme Court reviewed a state law outlawing abortions. Idaho’s measure was enacted after high court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022 and allows abortions only when necessary to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest. 

But the Biden administration has argued that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA, requires hospitals that participate in Medicare to provide stabilizing treatment, including abortions, to patients with an emergency medical condition.

If a state law prohibits abortions, or includes an exception that is more narrow than what EMTALA requires, it is overridden by the federal law, according to the Biden administration.

But Idaho officials have argued that EMTALA is silent on whether stabilizing care requires abortions and cannot displace a state’s own restrictions on the procedure.

The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case in April and a ruling is among the most closely watched of the term. The high court is scheduled to release additional decisions Thursday and Friday.

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