Appeals Court Rejects Extreme and Dangerous Arizona Abortion Ban
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals grants permanent injunction against unconstitutional state law banning abortion at 20 weeks
05.21.13 - (PRESS RELEASE) A panel of judges of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals permanently struck down an Arizona law banning all abortions at 20 weeks, calling the extreme measure “unconstitutional under an unbroken stream of Supreme Court authority, beginning with Roe and ending with Gonzales..”
The state law—which had been scheduled to take effect August 2, 2012—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:
“Today’s decision is a huge victory in the fight to protect women’s fundamental reproductive rights, and it should send a clear message to anti-choice politicians that their attempts to deprive pregnant women of critical health care are clearly unconstitutional and will not hold up in court.
“Last year, Arizona led the nation in the number of legislative attacks against women’s health care. With today’s defeat in federal court, we call on the governor and legislature to stop wasting Arizona taxpayers’ time and money on these cruel and extremely harmful efforts to chip away at women’s constitutionally protected rights.”
The law, HB 2036, would have banned abortion earlier in a pregnancy than similar laws recently enacted across the country and at a critical point when many women undergo prenatal testing to evaluate their own health and the status of the pregnancy.
The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held that states cannot ban abortion before viability and that any ban on abortion after that point in pregnancy 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. The Ninth Circuit’s decision today has enjoined the Arizona law as it applies to pre-viability procedures—upholding four decades of Supreme Court precedent.
The Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit, Paul A. Isaacson, M.D. v. Tom Horne, Attorney General of Arizona, in July 2012 in the U.S. District Court of Arizona on behalf of three physicians who perform abortions and serve women with high-risk pregnancies—arguing that the Arizona law violates the U.S. Constitution by banning pre-viability abortions.
After a federal district court judge denied a request to temporarily block the law and issued a final ruling upholding the statute, the Center and ACLU appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals—which immediately blocked the law from taking effect while it deliberated the appeal of the District Court’s decision.
The Center represents Paul A. Isaacson, M.D., with Janet Crepps as lead counsel and, as co-counsel, Janie Schulman and Nancy Thomas of Morrison & Foerster LLP and Chris LaVoy of LaVoy and Chernoff. The ACLU represents two additional Arizona women’s reproductive health specialists, with Talcott Camp as lead counsel and the ACLU of Arizona serving as co-counsel.