Judge clears Arizona late-term abortion ban

PHOENIX Mon Jul 30, 2012 10:38pm EDT

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PHOENIX (Reuters) - A federal judge refused on Monday to block an Arizona law banning most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, saying it does not impose a "substantial obstacle" to the procedure, and cleared the way for the statute to take effect on Thursday.

The ruling marked a stinging legal defeat for abortion-rights advocates who cited the Arizona law as the most extreme example of late-term abortion prohibitions enacted in more than half a dozen states, and they vowed to immediately appeal the decision.

U.S. District Judge James Teilborg ruled that the measure, passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature and signed into law in April by Republican Governor Jan Brewer, was consistent with the standards that federal courts have set on limits to late-term abortions.

The statute was challenged this month by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights in a lawsuit believed to be the first court case of its kind against late-term abortion bans, attorneys for the plaintiffs said.

Under the Arizona law, physicians found in violation of the ban would face a misdemeanor criminal charge and possible suspension or revocation of their licenses.

Teilborg said Arizona's law "does not impose a substantial obstacle" to abortions generally and that Arizona had the right to enact such a measure.

The Arizona statute bars doctors from performing abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy except in the case of a medical emergency, a circumstance critics say is defined more narrowly than exemptions permitted by other states with similar laws.

The Arizona ban provides an exemption only in cases in which an "immediate" abortion is required to avert death or risk of "substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function."

Late-term bans elsewhere, by comparison, generally allow an abortion when the mother's life or health would otherwise be in jeopardy, abortion-rights advocates say.

The judge denied a request by the plaintiffs for a court injunction blocking the law's implementation and threw out the case on its merits.

The opponents of the law said they would file an emergency appeal with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in a last-ditch bid to keep the ban from being implemented.

"This law forces a sick, pregnant woman to wait until she is on the brink of disaster before her doctor can provide her medically appropriate care," said Dan Pochoda, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union in Arizona.

Brewer said in a statement that she was pleased that the court ruling would allow "common sense restrictions" to be put on the state's books.

"I recognize that the issue of abortion remains a controversial one. With the Mother's Health and Safety Act, I'm hopeful most Arizonans can find common ground," she said.

The suit was thought to mark the first court test brought by physicians against similar abortion restrictions that have surfaced in a growing number of states since Republicans gained greater statehouse clout in the November 2010 elections, according to the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Although late-term abortions remain relatively rare, six states have put laws into effect in the past two years banning them, based on hotly debated medical research suggesting that a fetus feels pain starting at 20 weeks of gestation. North Carolina enacted its own such ban decades ago.

Arizona and two other states - Georgia and Louisiana - have enacted similar bans that have not yet taken effect, the Center for Reproductive Rights said.

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973 but allowed states to place restrictions on the procedure from the time when a fetus could potentially survive outside the womb, except when a woman's health was at risk.

(Editing by Steve Gorman, Cynthia Johnston and Will Dunham)

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Comments (3)
spagester wrote:
“I recognize that the issue of abortion remains a controversial one. With the Mother’s Health and Safety Act, I’m hopeful most Arizonans can find common ground,”

What’s the common ground that can be found? Only partially ending a life?

“Number of deaths from firearms in the U.S. in 2009 – 31,347 (only 11,493 were homicides)

Number of deaths from abortions performed by Planned Parenthood in the U.S. 2009 – 332,278 (332,278 were intentional)

That means that 10 times as many people were killed by Planned Parenthood as were killed by guns. Planned Parenthood is more dangerous than all the guns in America. Liberals condemn one of these statistics and condone the other. Do you know which one liberals condone?”~David Wesley Gould

Jul 31, 2012 7:50am EDT  --  Report as abuse
jetafulfill wrote:
People are emotional about birth. However, it is nonsense for people to ignore logic and practicality about abortion. An unborn child is not a person. A fetus is not a functioning person or child. A fetus cannot reason, see or know the world. A fetus is not a social being. A fetus does not have a personality or identity. A fetus is not responsible to anyone and has no societal interaction. A fetus does not have an opinion. Even if a fetus can feel pain, where does this pain go? Nowhere. It is INSIDE the the RESPONSIBLE person. If we follow the logic a fetus is a person we should assign a proportionate degree of responsibility to a child, and we can’t; We can’t give a child the authority of an adult untill the child IS an adult. Even as adults we can’t all assume the same level of responsibility and/or BEING. For the same reason adults don’t fight each other for anything their heart desires, kill anybody who causes them pain, waste time in frivolous lawsuits—-is the same reason a fetus is not a person. Can you, lawfully, beat up elderly people? Can all elderly people have the same level of responsibility? No, because humans are not apes, we have studied our own development and have learned that there are specific levels of human maturation. If we follow the logic a fetus is a person with a right to life all BORN humans have the right for unending assertion for their right to conquer anything or person. On this EARTH we don’t have unending rights to conquer other people, races, nations, brothers, sisters—-and the list can go on and on. Abortion is a person’s SPIRITUAL issue. If you feel having an abortion is causing pain to a fetus the manisfestation of that pain is intangible and spiritual; It is not in the physical world as evidence. If you feel guilty about it, it is between you and YOUR God. No one can say what punishment is from YOUR God for inflicting what you think is pain upon an unborn fetus. Therefore, the issue should be left up to the individual.

Jul 31, 2012 1:52pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
ChrisAldridge wrote:
I am against abortion with the exception of medical emergency or rape of course. But there are some anti-abortionists who are only so as far as late term abortions are concerned, and I am sorry, after 20 weeks, that’s without a doubt a living baby you have. My son was born at 24 weeks, very premature, and if you think it’s alright to kill a baby in that state, you are one sick puppy. Bravo, Arizona. You finally did something right. Some people argue that a fetus is not a living child. It’s just not true. If it is not alive, then it must be dead, for death is the opposite of life, and that which is dead cannot grow nor develop, and that “fetus” which people seem so fit to label as not human, will grow into a full living baby, for it can become nothing else. If it were not alive, it could not grow. Besides that, I think that exterminating ourselves shows that we have lost our sense of humanity and self. How can such a civilization stand? How many more will we kill because we don’t see them as “human?” Or we see them as “inferior?” And how many innocent people have been killed, and entire populations and cultures wiped out because of those labels?

Jul 31, 2012 9:57pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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