Lesson 1 of 0
In Progress

1.11: Supremacy Clause and Preemption II


  1. Read the background to the court’s decision in connection with the federal government’s lawsuit to prevent enforcement of Idaho’s law.
  2. Read the excerpt of the judge’s decision.

I. Background to the Decision

The judge held that the court would grant the preliminary injunction sought by the federal government. Keep in mind that courts are reluctant to grant preliminary injunctions unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the injunction is necessary to prevent irreparable harm and that the plaintiff is likely to prevail if the case goes to trial. So the judge must have found the federal government’s arguments very convincing.

II. Read an excerpt of the decision below (edited for clarity)

Here is an excerpt of what the judge wrote in granting the preliminary injunction:

1. The Supremacy Clause & Preemption

[1] The Supremacy Clause provides that federal law “shall be the supreme Law of the Land.” U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2. [2] “Congress may consequently preempt, i.e., invalidate, a state law through federal legislation.” Oneok, Inc. v. Learjet, Inc., 575 U.S. 373, 376 (2015).

[3] Congress indicated its intent to displace state law through an express preemption provision, which says EMTALA preempts state law “to the extent that the [state law] requirement directly conflicts with a requirement of this law.” 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd(f).

[4] One type of conflict between federal law and state law is impossibility preemption. Draper v. Chiapuzio, 9 F.3d 1391, 1393 (9th Cir. 1993). [5] Impossibility preemption occurs  “where it is impossible for a private party to comply with both state and federal law.” Crosby v. Nat’l Foreign Trade Council, 530 U.S. 363, 372 (2000).

[6] Here, it is impossible to comply with both statutes. [7] As already discussed, when pregnant women with an emergency medical condition come to a hospital that receives federal funds, the EMTALA obligates the treating physician to provide stabilizing treatment, including abortion care. [8] But regardless of the pregnant patient’s condition, Idaho statutory law makes that treatment a crime because Idaho law prohibits all abortions. [9] And where federal law requires the provision of care and state law criminalizes that very care, it is impossible to comply with both laws.

[10] It is impossible for healthcare workers to simultaneously comply with their obligations under EMTALA and Idaho statutory law. [11] The state law must therefore yield to federal law to the extent of that conflict.

III. Answer the Questions