Jennifer (Jenny) M. Nelson Carney, Member of the Firm in the Health Care & Life Sciences practice, in the firm’s Columbus office, was quoted in the Ohio Capital Journal, in “Ohio Doctors Fear Effects of Emergency Abortion Care Case Set to Go Before U.S. Supreme Court,” by Susan Tebben.

Following is an excerpt:

A federal law that allows emergency departments to treat patients without regard to their ability to pay will be under U.S. Supreme Court scrutiny this week, and Ohio doctors are concerned about the case’s local impact on emergency abortion care.

The nation’s highest court will hear oral arguments in Idaho v. United States, an appeal in which the state is questioning elements of a 1986 law called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA). The law compels emergency rooms to treat all patients who are experiencing emergency medical conditions and stabilize or transfer those patients, whether or not insurance or financial payment has been confirmed. …

The U.S. Department of Justice sued after Idaho passed their own abortion ban that only provides exceptions for the life of the pregnant individual. The DOJ argued the EMTALA preempts any such law.

After the 2022 decision by the court in Dobbs — which overturned the nationwide right to abortion care and returned the decision to the states — the U.S. Department Health and Human Services sent out a memo with guidelines telling medical professionals that EMTALA still preempted state laws, including in the use of medically necessary abortions.

“If a pregnant patient is experiencing an emergency medical condition and abortion is the stabilizing treatment necessary to resolve that condition, the physician must provide that treatment to stabilize that patient,” said Ohio health care attorney Jennifer Nelson Carney.

At issue in the Idaho case is whether or not abortions can be considered a stabilizing treatment, but Carney said depending on how the Supreme Court rules, the case could have ripple effects far beyond reproductive health.

“(Plaintiffs) think that what they’re asking for is to have the court rule that abortion is not a possible treatment to stabilize, but the likelihood is that, if the court were to go that way, that it would be a much broader implication that would result in people not being treated at all,” Carney said.

She called it the “classic legal analysis of slippery slope,” and potentially criminalizing conduct covered under EMTALA “places health care providers in a very grim situation of risking criminal liability if they follow just their expertise, training and ethical obligations.”

“If the opinion says that states can decide what health care services are subject to EMTALA and what aren’t, that is just a brand new health care framework that we haven’t seen in 40 years,” Carney said. …

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in the Idaho case on Wednesday, April 24.

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