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League of Women Voters Joins Amicus Brief Urging Importance of Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor (EMTALA) Act  

Press Release / Last Updated:

WASHINGTON — The League of Women Voters of the United States (LWVUS) joined an amicus brief filed in the consolidated Idaho v. United States and Moyle v. United States cases before the US Supreme Court. The cases concern whether states can block pregnant people from getting emergency abortion care in hospitals, which, if adopted, would have devastating implications for pregnant people facing medical emergencies. The amicus brief is led by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), and the League is represented by NWLC and the law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC. 

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) is a critical federal law that requires hospitals to treat and stabilize patients experiencing an emergency medical condition. For pregnant people, abortion can be lifesaving or necessary to prevent permanent bodily harm. After the US Supreme Court stripped women and those who may become pregnant of their bodily autonomy by overturning Roe v. Wade, states across the country have passed or attempted to pass severe abortion restrictions, including those that would prevent pregnant people from receiving life-saving emergency care. LWVUS joined this critical case and brief, which highlights the maternal health crisis in the US as well as the stark racial disparities in maternal morbidity and mortality rates that would only worsen should the Court rule in Idaho’s favor.  

“All people deserve access to quality health care, including emergency reproductive health services that can be lifesaving, said Celina Stewart, chief counsel at the League of Women Voters of the United States. "When women and those who can become pregnant cannot receive equal access to health care, they are no longer equal in our democracy. The attack on reproductive care is attempting to reduce those who can become pregnant to second-class citizenship, and the League won’t stand for it.”

“Alabama families are suffering physically and emotionally at the hands of our state government leaders, who are actively interfering in the private and personal health care of pregnant people and their physicians. Expectant mothers in poverty-stricken, rural Alabama counties are dying in greater numbers than ever because of expanding healthcare deserts. This crisis is made worse by Alabama’s long-standing unwillingness to protect the health of all residents, and because of the legislature’s focus on forcing pregnant people to give birth, regardless of their choice or circumstances. We urgently need federal protection for pregnant people who will experience more health care emergencies in Alabama.” Kathy Jones, president, LWV of Alabama

“The right to choose is a fundamental right that impacts all civic decisions. Without the ability to make reproductive decisions for one’s own body, those who can become pregnant cannot participate equally in our democracy. Right now, Floridians are working to place a ballot initiative in front of voters to codify the ability to make personal medical decisions free of government intrusion. In tandem, the League of Women Voters of Florida supports the amicus brief to protect womens' right to receive needed emergency room care. The right to health care, including abortion, is one of the greatest challenges of our time. We must insist that women be given full citizenship with the right to control their bodies and reproductive choices. This is what it means to have an equal vote and equal voice. We must have the right to choose. It is essential to save democracy for all.” Cecile M. Scoon, Esq., and Debbie Chandler, Esq., co-presidents, LWV of Florida

“These laws banning Idaho residents from receiving emergency abortion care must be challenged. It is the ultimate government overreach for the legislature to claim the right to intrude on personal health care decisions. Health care decisions should be made by patients and their doctors, not by the government. These egregious laws, already in force in Idaho, are causing grave medical harm by chasing doctors from our state and forcing families to go out-of-state to find emergency health care.“ Betsy McBride, co-president, LWV of Idaho 

“SB1 was passed by the Indiana legislature immediately after Roe v. Wade was overturned, making abortion illegal except to preserve the life of the pregnant person or prevent serious risk to her physical health, among other exceptions. Indiana already provides inadequate medical care statewide, especially for those in rural areas. Not only do pregnant people find it difficult to get prenatal care, but if the Court does not uphold emergency abortion care protections, pregnant people will face devastating outcomes when they need emergency care. Their health and their very lives are at stake.” Linda Hanson, president, LWV of Indiana

“In 2023, Louisiana had the highest pregnancy mortality rate in the nation. This particularly affects pregnant patients of color, who have long suffered some of the nation’s highest rates not only of pregnancy mortality, but also pregnancy complications and unnecessary caesarean sections. All this has been worsened by the Dobbs decision and the triggering of abortion bans in Louisiana. To avoid the appearance of abortion in case of miscarriage, pregnant people are being told to come in later for pregnancy care and being subjected to major surgery instead of routine care in the event of emergencies. All of this means that the pregnant people in Louisiana are now at even greater risk of encountering medical emergencies related to pregnancy that EMTALA is intended to address. EMTALA care must include pregnancy care — our lives are on the line in Louisiana.” M. Christian Green, president, LWV of Louisiana

“Missouri politicians have been doing everything possible to stop us from getting a Reproductive Freedom initiative on the ballot. As members of the Missouri League help gather signatures for this constitutional amendment, we’re finding voters are eager to eliminate our legislature’s draconian ban on abortions and protect women's health.” Marilyn McLeod, president, LWV of Missouri

“North Dakotans already face the consequences of one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation. Further restrictions denying health care to pregnant people facing medical emergencies will endanger lives and handcuff medical professionals who could save those lives. This will be particularly felt in those rural parts of North Dakota where access to maternity care is already scarce.” Barbara Headrick, president, LWV of North Dakota

“Due to the lack of maternal care existing in South Dakota, pregnant people have to travel several hundreds of miles to get healthcare. This particularly affects Native Americans in our state, who have decreased access to healthcare on many of our reservations.  All South Dakotans deserve to have access to emergency care that considers their entire health situation, including a pregnancy.” Amy Scott-Stoltz, President LWV of South Dakota

"We are witnessing Tennessee's strict abortion ban shift medical decision-making from doctors to corporate legal teams. Pregnant Tennesseans already suffer the third-highest rates of maternal mortality in the country, and over a third live in maternity care deserts. How can states like ours recruit needed obstetricians when they could face criminal prosecution for acting in the best interest of their patients? Political interference in medicine has generational consequences for entire families and for our faltering health care network. Attacks on our right to emergency care should not be allowed to prevail." Debby Gould, president, LWV of Tennessee

"We have already seen in Texas that, while there is technically a medical exception to abortion bans if a pregnant woman's life is in danger, no one knows what it means. We have already seen that — even when a doctor has determined with "reasonable medical judgment" that pregnancy poses a risk of death or serious risk to health or future pregnancy — the government doubles down on threatening doctors and hospitals with charges. Doctors fear losing their licenses, being fined, and getting prison time. Women have had to flee that state to receive the medical treatment they need, which we know is not an option available to every pregnant person at risk. Doctors and women must be allowed to use their good faith judgment without threat from the government." Joyce LeBombard, president, LWV of Texas

Reproductive care is essential health care and a fundamental right. Allowing states to block critical emergency reproductive health services is a threat to the freedom of all Americans who can become pregnant. As an ally of reproductive rights organizations, the League of Women Voters will continue to advocate for safe access to health care, including reproductive care.  

Oral argument for Idaho v. US and Moyle v. US will be heard by the US Supreme on April 24, 2024. View the brief here.




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