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Updated Jul 20, 2012 - 8:46 pm

County officials at odds on Arizona abortion case

PHOENIX — Two prominent Arizona prosecutors who would have to enforce a new abortion restriction are taking opposite positions on whether it should be allowed to take effect as scheduled.

A lawsuit recently filed by abortion-rights groups challenges the new law’s ban on abortions starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall were named as defendants in the lawsuit because of their law enforcement positions.

Separate filings Friday by the two county attorneys put them on opposite sides of the issue of whether a judge should grant the abortion rights groups’ request for an order blocking enforcement.

Montgomery, a Republican, opposed the request. He said the 20-week ban serves to protect the health of women and to prevent abortions when fetuses can feel pain.

LaWall, a Democrat, says enforcement should be delayed until the law’s constitutionality is determined. She said there is considerable risk that the 20-week ban would violate a Supreme Court ruling disallowing abortion bans starting before a fetus can survive outside the womb.

Two state officials named as defendants in the lawsuit, Attorney General Tom Horne and Arizona Medical Board Executive Director Lisa Wynn, said in a separate filing that they support Montgomery’s position.

The federal judge hearing the case has scheduled a hearing Wednesday. The 20-week ban is scheduled to take effect Aug. 2.

Meanwhile, enforcement of another abortion-related law also scheduled to take effect Aug. 2 apparently will be delayed because of a challenge filed by Planned Parenthood Arizona.

That law would bar public funding for non-abortion health care provided by abortion doctors and clinics.

Logan Johnston, an attorney for the state’s Medicaid program, said lawyers for the state and Planned Parenthood Arizona are working out an agreement. It would temporarily put the law on hold to give a federal judge time to consider a request to block enforcement, Johnston said.

The judge hearing that case has scheduled an October hearing.

Arizona already bars using public money for abortion, but supporters of the new law say they want to ensure that there’s no indirect support for abortions.

Planned Parenthood said the law would disrupt care for people needing services such as cancer screenings.

Both laws were approved by the Arizona Legislature and signed by Gov. Jan Brewer earlier this year.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.


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