Federal Judge Upholds 20-Week Abortion Ban; Actually Cites Suspect Fetal-Pain Evidence
A federal judge ruled that the Arizona law banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy will be allowed to go into effect as scheduled on Thursday.
The ACLU of Arizona and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a complaint in federal court on July 12 to knock down the abortion law, but U.S. District Judge James Teilborg ruled that the abortion law is constitutional.
"The Arizona Legislature cited to the substantial and well-documented evidence that an unborn child has the capacity to feel pain during an abortion by at least twenty weeks gestational age," Teilborg writes in his decision.
The "expert" evidence presented by the Legislature's scientists on fetal pain was apparently enough to convince Teilborg that the law is justified. Problem is, actual doctors haven't pinpointed the exact time at which this happens.
Along with his acceptance of the questionable evidence, Teilborg also ruled that women in Arizona still have the option to receive an abortion before the 20-week mark, so the law doesn't interfere with their constitutional right to terminate their pregnancy.
"Today, the court upheld a law that prevents doctors from providing safe, legal medical care to their patients," ACLU staff attorney Alexa Kolbi-Molinas says in a statement.
The law still doesn't allow exceptions for women with high-risk pregnancies -- only exceptions for women who have immediate medical emergencies.
"This law forces a sick, pregnant woman to wait until she is on the brink of disaster before her doctor can provide her medically appropriate care," Arizona ACLU legal director Dan Pochoda says in a statement.
Six other states have similar bans, but they calculate the gestational age of the fetus differently than Arizona does. In Arizona, gestational age is counted the day after a woman's last menstrual cycle as opposed to other states, where it is counted two weeks after the last cycle -- the time when fertilization generally occurs.
Most prenatal testing is done at 20 to 24 weeks into pregnancy. So, by the time women can discover the risks associated with continuing pregnancy, they will have already lost the opportunity to undergo an abortion under the new law, Arizona ACLU Executive Director Alessandra Soler told New Times after the ACLU filed its first complaint.
The ACLU hopes to block the law from going into effect by filing an emergency appeal of the decision to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
You can check out Teilborg's full ruling here.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.