Sanctuary Files Brief to SCOTUS Supporting the Right to Emergency Abortion Care

Sanctuary filed an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in the consolidated cases Idaho v. United States and Moyle v. United States in support of reproductive care access.

Yesterday, Sanctuary filed an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in the consolidated cases Idaho v. United States and Moyle v. United States in support of reproductive care access. We argued that by requiring pregnant patients to incur serious but preventable harms or to suffer until their medical conditions become life-threatening, Idaho’s abortion ban amounts to gender-based violence. 

Joined by a coalition of 16 organizations advocating on behalf of survivors, our brief urges the Court to consider the compounding effect of the harms caused by abortion bans that conflict with EMTALA* for pregnant patients who arrive at the emergency department with emergency medical conditions resulting from physical abuse.

Homicide is the leading cause of death for pregnant women in the United States. The Court should not permit states to further endanger pregnant women’s lives and empower their abusers by denying stabilizing abortion care in the narrow but critical circumstances in which EMTALA requires it to prevent the patient’s death or serious harm to her health.

We want to thank the National Women’s Law Center for coordinating this broader effort in support of reproductive justice and our partners at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP for authoring this brief on our behalf. We also want to recognize the remarkable leadership of Sanctuary’s Reproductive Rights Advocacy Sub-Committee, co-chaired by Family Law Project and Policy Director Luba Reife and Senior Staff Attorney Anne Glatz.

Click here to read the full amicus brief. 

*The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) requires hospitals with emergency departments to provide a medical screening examination to any individual who comes to the emergency department and requests such an examination, and prohibits hospitals with emergency departments from refusing to examine or treat individuals with an emergency medical condition.

Access to Abortion — A Lifeline for Survivors of Domestic Violence

Intimate partner violence and pregnancy are highly correlated — which is why abortion bans are so devastating for survivors of abuse.

In light of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, it is vital to bring awareness to the correlation between intimate partner violence (IPV) and pregnancy — and highlight the devastating consequences of restricting access to safe and legal abortion for survivors.

In the US, homicide is the leading cause of death among pregnant women, and 1 in 6 pregnant women are abused by a partner. Pregnant survivors of abuse are at a 37% higher risk of developing obstetric complications

Too often, violence and pregnancy go hand in hand — unplanned pregnancies increase the risk for violence, and violence increases the risk for unplanned pregnancies. One study found that a woman’s odds of experiencing IPV rose by 10% with each pregnancy

It is important to note that pregnancy is not always consensual. 10.3 million women have had a partner who tried to get them pregnant against their will or refused to wear a condom, and 2.1 million have become pregnant due to rape by an intimate partner. 

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

This is called reproductive coercion — an abuser’s attempt to control their partner’s reproductive health. The abuser may engage in reproductive coercion as a means to maintain control and power in the relationship, and it can manifest in behaviors such as:

  • Interfering with or manipulating birth control methods, such as withholding a partner’s birth control pills or intentionally breaking/removing condoms during sex
  • Forcing a partner to get pregnant, carry a pregnancy to term, or terminate a pregnancy against their will
  • Coercing a partner to have unprotected sex

Lack of reproductive autonomy further tethers victims to their abusers, making it harder than it already is to leave an abusive relationship — for instance, a victim may stay with their abuser if they are the only means of financial support for the child. 

Access to safe and legal abortion is imperative in putting an end to reproductive coercion and IPV. Between 6% to 22% of women terminate their pregnancies because they are in an abusive relationship, and 34% of survivors report that their abusive partners limited their childbearing decision.

The overturning of Roe v. Wade will make obtaining abortion care difficult for those whose abusive partners control their decision-making, finances, and daily lives. It will disproportionately affect women of color, who also experience higher rates of IPV, and maternal and infant mortality, and are more likely to die from unsafe, illegal abortions. 

Reproductive autonomy is a lifeline — a chance to break free from a cycle of violence. A society that supports the right to choose means a society with less violence and more empathy and resources for survivors.