PHOENIX — The U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to review a federal
appeals court ruling that Arizona’s law banning abortions after the 20th week of
pregnancy is unconstitutional.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery filed a petition Friday with the high
court. He argued on the Arizona law’s behalf in front of the 9th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals in San Francisco last November.
The three-judge panel ruled in May that Arizona’s abortion law is clearly in
conflict with Roe v. Wade.
The federal appeals court said the state’s law violated a woman’s
constitutionally-protected right to terminate a pregnancy before a fetus is able
to survive outside the womb.
“Viability” of a fetus is generally considered to start at 24 weeks. Normal
pregnancies run about 40 weeks.
The Arizona law seeks to push back the last possible date, banning abortions
past 20 weeks, even in situations where the doctor discovers the fetus has a
When the law was first challenged in federal court by the American Civil
Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of three
Arizona obstetrician-gynecologists, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that it
was a regulation, not a ban, and therefore constitutional.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the ban into law in April 2012 after it was
approved by the Republican-led Legislature.
Supporters said the law was meant to protect the mother’s health and prevent
fetuses from feeling pain. U.S. District Judge James Teilborg ruled it was
constitutional, partly because of those concerns, but the 9th Circuit blocked
the ban from going into effect until it ruled.
Lawyers representing Arizona argued that the ban wasn’t technically a law but
rather a medical regulation because it allowed for doctors to perform abortions
in medical emergencies.
At least nine other states have enacted similar bans starting at 20 weeks or
even earlier. Several of those bans had previously been placed on hold or struck
down by other courts.