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Judge to rule Wednesday in DOJ lawsuit against Idaho’s near-total abortion ban

(WASHINGTON) — A federal judge is expected to rule Wednesday on the Biden administration’s lawsuit against a near-total ban on abortions in Idaho.

The U.S. Department of Justice sued the state over the ban, which goes into effect on Thursday, arguing that it violates a federal law guaranteeing access to emergency medical care.

The Idaho abortion law would make it a felony to perform an abortion in all but extremely narrow circumstances. There are exceptions for cases of rape or incest that have been reported. To avoid criminal liability, a doctor must prove that the abortion was necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman, though there is no defense for an abortion to protect the woman’s health, according to the DOJ.

In its complaint, filed on Aug. 2, the Justice Department claimed that the Idaho law violates the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which states that hospitals that receive Medicare funds are required to provide necessary treatment to women who arrive at their emergency departments while experiencing a medical emergency. That medical care could include providing an abortion, according to the DOJ.

The Justice Department is seeking a declaratory judgment that the Idaho law is preempted by the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act in emergency situations, as well as an order permanently barring the law to the extent that it conflicts with the federal act.

U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill in Boise said he plans to issue a decision in the case on Wednesday.

The lawsuit marked the Biden administration’s first legal challenge to a state abortion ban after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in June, ending the constitutional right to an abortion.

Prosecutors argued that the Idaho law would prevent doctors from performing medically necessary abortions, as required by federal law.

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden called the lawsuit “politically motivated” and charged that the DOJ did not attempt to “engage Idaho in a meaningful dialogue on the issue” prior to filing its complaint.

A case involving the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act as it pertains to abortion care is also ongoing in Texas.

Last month, the state of Texas sued the Biden administration on its guidance to hospitals that doctors should perform an abortion if doing so would protect a woman’s health. The complaint was filed days after Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra instructed hospitals to follow the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act when determining whether to provide an abortion in emergency cases “regardless of the restrictions in the state where you practice.”

On Tuesday, a federal judge temporarily blocked the federal government from enforcing the guidance, saying the federal law is “silent as to abortion.”

Attorneys for the state of Idaho drew attention to that case in a court filing on Wednesday, stating that the state “has not yet had a full opportunity to consider how the Texas court’s decision should be persuasive in aspects of this current lawsuit, or in the pending preliminary injunction motion.”

Idaho’s so-called trigger law would be even more restrictive than an abortion ban that went into effect in the state earlier this month. That law, modeled after a similar “heartbeat law” in Texas, bans abortion at about six weeks and also allows civil lawsuits against medical providers who perform the procedure.

Amid legal challenges from abortion providers, the Idaho Supreme Court upheld both abortion laws in a ruling issued on Aug. 12, allowing them to go into effect.

Another trigger law that would make it a felony for doctors to perform an abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy went into effect on Aug. 19 in the state. That law, which has exceptions for rape, incest and medical emergencies, is also currently being challenged by abortion providers.

ABC News’ Alexander Mallin contributed to this report.

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