Supreme Court allows emergency abortions in Idaho

The Supreme Court formally dismissed an appeal over Idaho’s strict abortion ban on Thursday, blocking enforcement of the state’s law a day after the opinion was inadvertently posted on the court’s website in an astonishing departure from its highly controlled protocols.

At issue in the case was a state law that banned abortions except for the life of the pregnant woman. The Biden administration argued that a federal law required hospitals to also provide abortions in cases where the health of a pregnant woman is at stake.

The unsigned opinion drew a flurry of concurrences from conservative and liberal justices, who formed an unusual alliance to dismiss the case and temporarily block enforcement of Idaho’s strict ban. Though the decision was technically a loss for Idaho, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson stressed in a partial dissent that the potential impact is likely to be short-lived.

“Today’s decision is not a victory for pregnant patients in Idaho,” Jackson wrote. “It is delay.”

The decision sweeps abortion off the Supreme Court’s docket in the middle of a highly contested presidential election, even though the issue is almost certain to return to the justices. Earlier this month, the court dispensed with another abortion case, an appeal challenging expanded access to the abortion pill mifepristone. There, a unanimous court held that the anti-abortion doctors and groups who sued did not have standing.

Almost as notable as the Idaho decision itself was the fact that the public received an early glimpse of the outcome when a version of the opinion was inadvertently posted online briefly. Bloomberg spotted the opinion and posted it online Wednesday before the court removed it.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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