DOJ files first federal lawsuit in response to overturning of Roe v. Wade

The Department of Justice is challenging Idaho's new abortion law following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Video Transcript

MERRICK GARLAND: This is not in any way going around the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court said that each state can make its own decisions with respect to abortion. But so too can the federal government. Nothing that the Supreme Court said that the statutes passed by Congress such as EMTALA are in any way invalid.

- Well, that was Attorney General Merrick Garland there discussing a DOJ lawsuit filed Tuesday seeking to block a new restrictive abortion law in Idaho. Now, this is the first Justice Department lawsuit after the Supreme Court overturned Roe versus Wade in June. Well, very own Alexis Keenan is joining us now with more. So Alexis, give us more detail on this lawsuit.

ALEXIS KEENAN: Hi, Michelle. Yes, so this is the first time that the Justice Department is taking legal action to try to protect women's rights to reproductive care. This is a federal lawsuit. And it's really attacking the state of Idaho's forthcoming abortion law. That was scheduled to go into effect on August 25. Now, the Department of Justice is alleging that this state law, which is a near-total ban on abortion, is in direct conflict, they say, with federal law.

And the federal law in particular is called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act. And that federal law requires Medicare-funded hospitals to give stabilizing treatment-- it's called stabilizing treatment-- to any patient that comes to the emergency room before they are either transferred or discharged from the hospital. So on the other hand, the Idaho law, it makes it illegal for doctors and health care professionals to carry out an abortion with these rare exceptions. And those exceptions are when a woman's life is at risk or in cases of rape or incest. So there's really no exception here for serious health concerns of the pregnant woman.

Some of the things that Merrick Garland, the US Attorney General, talked about in a press conference just about an hour ago, he said that there are instances that are problematic miscarriages, and also things like severe pre-eclampsia, that could really threaten a woman's health. And that's why these physicians need to be able to have the liberty to be able to perform abortion in those cases.

Plus, they say the law puts the burden on doctors to really show that the patient's life is at risk, which is really going to be difficult to do in hindsight. They say that these doctors and health care professionals can be subjected to, under this Idaho law, arrest, prosecution. And it comes with two to five years imprisonment. So the penalties are really pretty hefty here. And what they're trying to do is use the constitution's supremacy clause. That's the clause that says that federal law will trump state law where those two things are in conflict. That's the way they're going after this. But the first time here for the Justice Department to try to make some headway.

- Certainly starting early already. A big thank you there. Yahoo Finance's Alexis Keenan, thanks so much.