ACLU Trying to Stop 20-Week Abortion Ban; Says "No Court Has Ever Upheld" Such a Law

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a complaint in Arizona Federal District Court Thursday to knock down the Arizona law that will make it illegal for women to receive an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The threshold was set as the point at which fetuses start to feel pain, and while actual doctors haven't pinpointed the exact time at which this happens, the chief scientists at the Legislature declared that it's 20 weeks.

The abortion restriction is slated to go into effect in early August, and the ACLU would like it to go into effect the day after never.

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.

The law doesn't allow exceptions for women with high-risk pregnancies -- only exceptions for women who have immediate medical emergencies.

"It allows the government to interfere with very personal decisions," Arizona ACLU executive director Alessandra Soler says. "They need accessible medical care. It should be up to the women and their families to make these decisions."

Soler notes that the decision to abort a child late in the pregnancy cycle is often a very difficult one for families to make. She also notes that most prenatal testing is done at 20 to 24 weeks into pregnancy. So, by the time women could discover the risks associated with continuing pregnancy, they will have already lost the opportunity to undergo an abortion under the new law.

The Center for Arizona Policy, a lobbying organization that pushed hard for bill's passage, vaguely argues that the law helps protect women who would be putting their health at risk by getting an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

"Once again, we see supposed 'pro-woman' organizations fight to protect abortion-on-demand despite the serious risks abortion presents to new moms," CAP president Cathi Herrod says in a statement.

The ACLU's confident that it can successfully strike down the law because there is no law like it anywhere else in the country.

"No court has ever upheld such an extreme and dangerous abortion ban," Arizona ACLU legal director Dan Pochoda says in a statement. "Instead of passing unconstitutional laws and blocking women's access to critical health services, our legislators should be working to ensure that all women get the care they need to have healthy pregnancies and protect their families."

Information on the case, including the ACLU's complaint, can be found here.

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Jason Lewis
Contact: Jason Lewis