Isaacson v. Horne


Primary Content

This is a federal court challenge to an Arizona law, passed in 2012, that prohibits abortions beginning at 20 weeks (measured from the date of fertilization).

Filing date: 7/12/2012

State: Arizona

Plaintiff(s): Paul A. Isaacson, M.D., (represented by CRR) and William Clewell, M.D. and Hugh Miller, M.D.(represented by ACLU)

Center Attorney(s): Janet Crepps, David Brown

Co-Counsel/Cooperating Attorneys: Christopher A. LaVoy, Tiffany &amp, Bosco, P.A., Janie F. Schulman and Nancy R. Thomas, Morrison &amp, Foerster LLP, Talcott Camp and Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, Daniel Pochoda and Kelly Flood, ACLU of Arizona

Summary: In 2012, Arizona passed legislation prohibiting abortion beginning at 20 weeks gestation (18 weeks as measured from the first day of a pregnant woman's last menstrual period (LMP)). The narrow exceptions to the ban permit an abortion only if the woman is facing a medical emergency that could lead to death or serious physical impairment. The ban takes effect at or only shortly after the time many women receive prenatal testing to diagnose severe or lethal fetal anomalies.

CRR challenged the ban in federal court and sought a preliminary injunction to prevent the ban from taking effect on August 2, 2012. We argued that the ban violates clear United States Supreme Court precedent that prohibits the states from banning abortion prior to viability. The undisputed evidence in this case made clear that at 20 weeks, no fetus is viable. Federal District Court Judge James A. Teilborg denied the preliminary injunction and dismissed the case. We then filed an appeal with the Ninth circuit Court of Appeals and made an emergency motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent enforcement of the law while the appeal was pending. That motion was granted on August 1, 2012.

On May 21, 2013, a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit, with one judge concurring, held the ban unconstitutional as applied to pre-viability abortions. In the court's words: "Under controlling Supreme Court precedent, Arizona may not deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her pregnancy at any point prior to viability." The Defendants now have the option of seeking further review from the Ninth circuit or asking the United States Supreme Court to review the case.

CRR has also challenged an Arkansas ban that prohibits abortions beginning at 12 weeks LMP.