Center for American Progress

Idaho v. United States: The Dangers of Criminalizing Abortion Care

Idaho v. United States: The Dangers of Criminalizing Abortion Care

Four medical professionals detail how their personal and professional lives are directly affected by the far-reaching consequences of Idaho v. United States.

Part of a Series

This article contains a correction.

On April 24, 2024, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Idaho v. United States, which centers on whether the state’s near-total abortion ban subjecting medical providers to criminal and civil sanctions for providing abortion care conflicts with the broader requirements of emergency care under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA).

The case directly intersects with the personal and professional lives of medical providers. In this storyteller series, four medical professionals from Idaho and other rural states testify about how the criminalization of abortion care and the interference of the Supreme Court in their daily medical practice has changed their personal and professional lives.

Medical students who have dreamed of serving their home state of Idaho are now questioning whether they can work in a state that criminalizes medical care. Emergency doctors and OB-GYNs in rural states fear that their pregnant patients who require abortion care as a stabilizing treatment in a medical emergency will be forced to endure a delay in care because of legal technicalities outside their control. And medical professionals fear that they can be subjected to severe criminal and civil sanctions for simply doing their job—upholding their oath to provide care to the communities they serve.

Cindy Davis, OB-GYN from South Dakota, on the untenable position of trying to provide pregnancy care under the constant threat of criminal charges

Dr. Cindy Davis (she/her) has practiced in South Dakota as an OB-GYN for more than 20 years. She currently works at a rural critical access hospital based between two Indigenous reservations. Dr. Davis’ rural patient population consists primarily of Native Americans, farmers, ranchers, and Hutterites. She is one of two OB-GYNs who provides pregnancy care for uninsured populations in rural South Dakota. In her video testimony, Dr. Davis describes the importance of EMTALA in rural communities and her fears about providing pregnancy care in a state with a near-total abortion ban.

Polly Wiltz, second-year emergency medicine resident in Cleveland, Ohio, on the importance of EMTALA for pregnancy care in a rural state

Dr. Polly Wiltz (she/her) is a emergency medicine resident who works in the emergency department at a community-based hospital in East Cleveland, Ohio. The vast majority of her patient population is uninsured and lives below the poverty line. In her video testimony, Dr. Wiltz discusses why EMTALA is essential for her pregnant patients, her code of ethics as a medical provider, and how legal cases such as Idaho v. United States will result in delayed medical care for patients, with profound long-term consequences for their health and bodily autonomy.

Rory Cole, fourth-year medical student from Idaho, on the difficult decision to do a family medicine residency under Idaho’s near-total abortion ban

In her video testimony, Rory Cole discusses how the decision to do a family medicine residency program in Idaho—a state that subjects medical providers to severe criminal and civil sanctions for providing abortion care—was one of the most difficult decisions of her life. However, Cole also discusses why she decided to stay and fight for her patients while serving the community she comes from.

Emina Gulbis, third-year medical student, on the fear and uncertainty of potentially being an OB-GYN in Idaho*

Emina Gulbis, who was raised in Idaho,* has always dreamed of becoming an OB-GYN and practicing in her home state. However, Idaho’s near-total abortion ban, which criminalizes the very kind of medical care she is hoping to provide to patients in need, has put her in a state of anxiety, stress, and uncertainty when it comes to applying for a medical residency. She is not alone. Scores of maternal health doctors in Idaho are contemplating stopping their practice or leaving Idaho altogether due to the criminal consequences of the state ban. In her video testimony, Gulbis discusses her fears about the future of maternal health care, for both patients and providers, in Idaho.

Message to justices: Stay out of exam rooms

On April 24, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Idaho v. United States.  Four medical professionals from rural states, some with near-total abortion bans, have a message for the justices: Stay out of our exam rooms. Idaho v. United States has far-reaching consequences on the standard of medical care for pregnant patients experiencing emergency medical situations. It is imperative that the justices listen to the lived experiences and expertise of medical professionals on the front lines of the fight for abortion access.

* Correction, April 16, 2024: This article has been corrected to clarify that Emina Gulbis was raised  in Idaho and has concerns about becoming an OB-GYN there.

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Sabrina Talukder

Director, Women’s Initiative


Toni Pandolfo

Video Producer, Production

Olivia Mowry

Video Producer

Hai-Lam Phan

Senior Director, Creative


Women’s Initiative

The Women’s Initiative develops robust, progressive policies and solutions to ensure all women can participate in the economy and live healthy, productive lives.

Explore The Series

Obstructed view of U.S. Supreme Court

In Idaho v. United States, the Supreme Court will be forced to face the consequences of enabling the criminalizing abortion care.


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