The Justice Department on Tuesday filed a lawsuit that challenges Idaho’s restrictive abortion law, arguing that it conflicts with a federal law requiring doctors to provide pregnant women medically necessary treatment that could include abortion.

The federal government brought the suit seeking to invalidate the state’s “criminal prohibition on providing abortions as applied to women suffering medical emergencies," Attorney General Merrick Garland said.

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U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at a podium.

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during an event to swear in the new director of the federal Bureau of Prisons Colette Peters at BOP headquarters in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. The Justice Department is suing Idaho, arguing that its new abortion law violates federal law because it does not allow doctors to provide medically necessary treatment, Garland said Tuesday.

EVELYN HOCKSTEIN / AP

The announcement is the first major action by the Justice Department challenging a state trigger law since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. The court's decision has led some states to enact restrictive abortion laws and is likely to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states in the U.S.

The Justice Department brought the suit because federal prosecutors believe Idaho’s law would force doctors to violate the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, a federal law that requires anyone coming to a medical facility for emergency treatment to be stabilized and treated, Garland said.

“Idaho’s law would make it a criminal offense for doctors to provide the emergency medical treatment that federal law requires,” Garland said.

Idaho, like many Republican-led states, has several anti-abortion laws on the books, creating a legal quagmire now that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned the landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade.

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