News Abortion

Center For Reproductive Rights, ACLU File Suit Against Arizona 20-Week Gestation Ban

Robin Marty

The two groups are challenging the country's most restrictive so-called "fetal pain" ban yet.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union have filed a lawsuit against Arizona’s 20-week gestation (18-weeks post fertilization) ban on abortions, calling the law “flatly unconstitutional.”

“We have taken action today to stop a law whose hostility toward women’s health and fundamental rights is so extreme that it will risk their very lives,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights via statement.

“This law in Arizona displays a callous disregard for the complicated and very difficult circumstances many pregnant women face — and yet proponents of the law have the audacity to claim that it is designed to protect women.”

The Arizona ban is similar to those enacted in other states since Nebraska first passed theirs in 2010. But unlike other states, which limit the procedure after 20-weeks post fertilization (22 weeks gestation), the Arizona bill bans it at 20-weeks gestation, making it effective two weeks earlier in a pregnancy. 

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Most women traditionally wait until 20-weeks gestation to receive their scan for fetal anomalies, providing them with no time to make a decision about their pregnancies if something is found to be wrong with the fetus.

“When state legislatures attempt to practice medicine, they get it wrong and women pay the price,” said Janet Crepps, senior staff attorney at the Center. “By imposing criminal penalties, coupled with extremely narrow health exceptions, this law requires physicians to endanger the lives and health of their patients.”

The state has said it is “committed” to putting the law in action.

“Arizonans expect their attorney general to vigorously defend the state’s laws,” Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne told Business Week.

“As attorney general, I am committed to doing that, and this law will be no exception.”

The new law, unless it is blocked, will go into effect on August 2nd, and will be the first single effort to bring about a challenge to bans based on the medically dis-proven claim that a fetus can feel pain. Idaho woman Jennie Linn McCormack and her lawyer Richard Hearn, a doctor, are also challenging the Idaho version, which bans abortion after 20 weeks post fertilization.

Their suit, which is a class action suit and also challenges the state’s “unlawful abortion” law, is currently being heard in the 9th District.

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