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08.01.12 - (PRESS RELEASE) A panel of judges on the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that Arizona’s unconstitutional ban on abortion cannot take effect pending an appeal of the lower court’s decision by the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union.
The state law—which would have gone into effect August 2—aims to ban abortion at 20 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period (LMP) without any exceptions for a pregnant woman’s life or health unless she is experiencing a dire and possibly life-threatening emergency.
On July 30, a federal district court judge bucked previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings and denied a request to temporarily block the law and also issued a final ruling upholding the statute.
The Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the lawsuit, Paul A. Isaacson, M.D. v. Tom Horne, Attorney General of Arizona, on July 12 in the U.S. District Court of Arizona on behalf of three physicians who perform abortions and serve women with high-risk pregnancies—arguing that the Arizona law violates the U.S. Constitution by banning previability abortions.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Today’s decision by the Ninth Circuit is a vital reaffirmation of the constitutional protections for reproductive rights that have been upheld by the United States Supreme Court for nearly 40 years.
“We have fought to keep all medical options, including abortion, available to every woman facing devastating complications in her pregnancy, and today we have won a critical victory.
“We will continue this battle now to ensure that the private and personal decisions of Arizona women are not subject to arbitrary and dangerous restrictions advanced by an extreme anti-choice agenda.”
The preliminary injunction issued today will remain in effect while the Ninth Circuit considers the appeal of the District Court’s decision—a process that is likely to take several months.
The measure would have banned abortion earlier in a pregnancy than similar laws recently enacted across the country and at a critical point when most women undergo prenatal testing to evaluate their own health and the status of the pregnancy.
The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held that states cannot ban abortion before viability. The court has also found that any restrictions on abortion must include an exception for when an abortion is “necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health” of a woman.
The Center is representing Paul A. Isaacson, M.D., with Janet Crepps as lead counsel and, as co-counsel, Janie Schulman and Nancy Thomas of Morrison & Foerster LLP and Chris LaVoy of LaVoy and Chernoff. The ACLU represents two additional Arizona women’s reproductive health specialists, with Talcott Camp as lead counsel and the ACLU of Arizona serving as co-counsel.