PHOENIX — Arizona‘s ban on abortions starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy is poised to take effect this week as scheduled after a federal judge ruled Monday that the new law is constitutional.
U.S. District Judge James Teilborg said the statute may prompt a few pregnant women who are considering abortion to make the decision earlier. But he said the law is constitutional because it doesn’t prohibit any women from making the decision to end their pregnancies.
The judge also wrote that the state provided “substantial and well-documented” evidence that an unborn child has the capacity to feel pain during an abortion by at least 20 weeks.
Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed the measure into law in April, making Arizona one of 10 states to enact types of 20-week bans.
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Arizona’s ban, set to take effect Thursday, prohibits abortions starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy except in medical emergencies. That is a change from the state’s current ban at viability, which is the ability to survive outside the womb and which generally is considered to be about 24 weeks. A normal pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks.
The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights and another group filed a notice that they would be appealing Teilborg’s decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Today’s decision casts aside decades of legal precedent, ignoring constitutional protections for reproductive rights that have been upheld by the United States Supreme Court for nearly 40 years and threatening women’s health and lives,” said Nancy Northup, the center’s president and CEO.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, who was sued as part of the challenge, said there was no telling whether the appeals court would prevent the law from taking effect. Commenting on Monday’s decision, Montgomery said, “I thought it was sound legal reasoning and reached the appropriate conclusion.”
Brewer also lauded the ruling, saying in a statement that it protects women and children.
Teilborg held a hearing Wednesday on a request from abortion-rights groups that he temporarily block the law’s enforcement.