The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear Arizona’s appeal to reinstate its 20-week ban on abortion, which Gov. Jan Brewer (R) passed in 2012. In May, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled the Arizona law unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade, which guarantees a woman’s right to end her pregnancy before a fetus is viable. The justices’ decision to decline hearing the case means the lower court’s ruling holds. Time reports: Under the ban, which was ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court, all abortions after 20 weeks would have been illegal, except in the case of narrowly-defined medical emergencies. … Arizona officials acknowledged that fetuses are not considered viable until 24 weeks, but argued that the 20-week ban was more of a regulation than a law, justified by the possibility of fetal pain and women’s health as pregnancy progresses. Judge Andrew J. Kleinfeld, one of the three judges on the appeals court that heard the Arizona case, said both of the arguments presented by the state were flimsy. If the state were truly motivated to prevent the possibility of fetal pain, he said, “Arizona might regulate abortions at or after 20 weeks by requiring anesthetization of the fetuses about to be killed, much as it requires anesthetization of prisoners prior to killing them when the death penalty is carried out.” Late-term abortion bans have become a recent legislative trend at the state level. Eleven other states have tried to enact laws prohibiting abortions at or before 20 weeks, with North Dakota’s six-week ban being the strictest. The precedent set by the unconstitutional ruling on Arizona’s ban could have major implications for those statutes in the future.
Danayit Musse is a Spring 2014 editorial intern.