Supreme Court Refuses to Review Arizona Abortion Ban

Blatantly unconstitutional law banning abortions at 20 weeks remains permanently blocked by appellate court

(PRESS RELEASE) The United States Supreme Court today refused to review an Arizona law which would have banned all abortions at 20 weeks—allowing a ruling from an appellate court striking the measure as unconstitutional to stand.

The state law, which was permanently blocked by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in May 2013, would have banned all abortions at 20 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period (LMP) without any exceptions for a pregnant woman’s life or health unless she is experiencing a dire and possibly life-threatening emergency.

 Said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“The Supreme Court soundly declined to review the Ninth Circuit’s sound decision that Arizona’s abortion ban is clearly unconstitutional under long-standing precedent. This ensures that no Arizona women’s lives or health are harmed by this callous and unconstitutional law. But women should not be forced to run to court, year after year, in state after state, to protect their constitutional rights and access to critical health care. Our fundamental rights are not up for debate and cannot be legislated away by politicians who are hell bent on restricting access to the full range of reproductive health care.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights – along with the American Civil Liberties Union - filed a legal challenge in July 2012 to block a portion of Arizona’s anti-choice omnibus bill which would have banned abortions after 20 weeks from a woman’s last menstrual period, two weeks earlier than similar laws passed in other states.  In May 2013, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals permanently struck down the law, calling the extreme measure “unconstitutional under an unbroken stream of Supreme Court authority, beginning with Roe and ending with Gonzales.”

Since Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently upheld a woman’s constitutional right to end a pregnancy prior to fetal viability. The Court has also found that any restrictions on abortion must include an exception for when an abortion is “necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health” of a woman.

Harmful and unconstitutional bans like Arizona’s further underscore the need for the recently-introduced federal Women's Health Protection Act—an historic piece of legislation designed to enforce and protect the rights of every woman to obtain a full range of safe and legal reproductive health care and decide for herself whether to continue or end a pregnancy, regardless of where she lives, within the framework of regulations and limits recognized in Roe v. Wade.