Oregonians watching Supreme Court cases on abortion, homelessness; one down, one to go

The U.S. Supreme Court dropped a long-awaited decision Thursday, June 27, ruling that hospitals in Idaho that receive federal funding must provide emergency abortion services, despite that state’s near total ban on abortions.

Oregonians have been watching for a ruling on Moyle v. United States because a recent study by the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion think tank, recently released data showing that of 11,930 abortions provided within Oregon hospitals and clinics in 2023, about one in 10 were for out-of-state patients, including an estimated 400 from Idaho, which has enacted strict laws stopping abortion in most cases. About 690 came from the state of Washington.

Under Idaho law, abortion is illegal except in extreme cases, such as incest, rape or if it’s necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman.

Axios Portland posted a story on the new study in its Tuesday, June 25, newsletter.

At issue in this case is a decades-old federal rule called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, or EMTALA. It was passed by Congress in 1986 and requires emergency rooms at hospitals receiving federal funds to stabilize or transfer patients needing emergency care. In the case of a pregnant patient, that treatment could include abortion, which Idaho’s recently passed law prohibits.

Thursday’s ruling isn’t seen as unmitigated win for pro-abortion advocates. The unsigned decision by the justices doesn’t overturn Idaho’s law, but temporarily reinstates a lower court decision that would allow hospitals to perform emergency abortions.

A draft of the ruling was temporarily posted on the Supreme Court’s website on Wednesday, before being abruptly taken down. Reporters at Bloomberg.com reported that, in that draft, the ruling was 6-3, with the conservative trio of Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch in dissent.

Jessica Valenti, who writes the Abortion, Every Day blog, addressed the presumed decision on Wednesday. “That doesn’t mean this is a win. If the draft ruling obtained by Bloomberg stays the same, the justices will dismiss the case as ‘improvidently granted’ — meaning the Court shouldn’t have accepted the case to begin with. The ruling would reinstate a lower court’s decision to allow Idaho doctors to perform life-saving and stabilizing abortions, and is not a decision on the merits of the case,” she wrote.

“In that way, it’s similar to the SCOTUS decision on mifepristone: while it may seem positive at first glance, all the ruling does is kick the issue down the road,” Valenti wrote. “It’s a way to ensure that the Court doesn’t release an unpopular anti-abortion opinion that would hurt Republicans before November.”

Earlier this year, the high court OK’d public access to mifepristone, but left the issue open to further legal challenges. One political argument being made about that decision and Moyle v. United States is that when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, which ended decades of federal protection for abortion rights, it galvanized women voters and liberals. Further rulings on reproductive rights, it is argued, could affect House and Senate races, and the presidential race, this November.

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