Pro-abortion and pro-life protesters clash outside Supreme Court hearing on Idaho anti-abortion law

 April 25, 2024

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday held an emergency hearing on whether a federal law requiring the provision of health-stabilizing care supersedes state laws that tightly restrict abortions in medical emergency cases involving pregnant women.

And while the justices and lawyers squared off over the issue inside the court, so too did advocates both for and against the life-ending procedure for unborn babies clash outside the federal courthouse, CNN reported.

The outlet observed that there was "no significant physical altercation" that occurred between the two groups of protesters, though the situation was tense as both sides shouted at each other, at times directly in the face of their opponents.

Protesters from both sides of issue clash outside court

The Daily Mail reported that pro-abortion advocates chanted slogans and held signs that declared things like "abortion is health care" and, ironically, "abortion saves lives," and some even staged a grotesque "die-in" by laying on the ground while covered in white sheets splattered with fake blood.

They were countered by pro-life protesters who chanted slogans of their own and held signs that argued things like "emergency rooms are not abortion clinics" or that abortions resulted in murder for the unborn victims of the procedures.

A similar scene occurred just a few weeks earlier when the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case involving the legality of the abortion-inducing drug mifepristone.

Does a federal law supersede a state law?

At issue here, according to SCOTUSblog, is a law passed by the Idaho legislature in 2022 after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade that tightly restricts abortions with limited exceptions for instances of incest, rape, and to save the life -- though not the "health" -- of the mother.

The Biden administration, among others, swiftly sued to block that law from taking effect, and a federal district judge agreed to impose an injunction prohibiting the state from enforcing the law, a decision that was affirmed by a 9th Circuit appeals court panel -- though that injunction was temporarily lifted by the Supreme Court earlier this year to allow state enforcement while the case remained pending.

Central to the dispute is the 1986 law known as the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which bars hospitals and emergency rooms from denying health care to patients who can't pay for it and requires the provision of "necessary stabilizing treatment" for individuals experiencing an "emergency medical condition," including some complications from pregnancy.

The Biden administration asserted that federal law's requirements supersede any state-level restrictions, including on abortions, while Idaho countered that the federal government was attempting to impose an "unlimited" interpretation of the law that violated states' rights and sovereignty.

Court appears divided on the issue

Rather predictably, the Supreme Court's three liberal justices -- Justices Elena Kagen, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ketanji Brown Jackson -- unmistakably sided with the Biden administration's arguments that the federal law took precedence over the state law and that, with limited exceptions for conscientious objectors, doctors and hospitals would be required to provide abortions if deemed necessary to "stabilize" the health of a pregnant mother experiencing a medical emergency.

Just as unsurprising was the apparent stance of the court's three most conservative-leaning jurists -- Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch -- in favor of Idaho's arguments against the superiority of the federal law over the state's restrictions on abortions.

Somewhere in the middle of all of that, making it all but impossible to predetermine the eventual outcome, were the court's three more moderate members -- Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

The Supreme Court should issue its ruling on the matter by June or early July, if not sooner, given the "emergency" nature of the legal conflict and the fact that the lives of the mothers and the unborn are quite literally at stake.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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