(Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
The Supreme Court declined Monday to hear Arizona's appeal against a lower court's ruling that determined its ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy was unconstitutional. The lower court's ruling thus remains and the state's ban on abortion after 20 weeks has been struck down.
The Supreme Court justices declined to provide a reason as to why they won't be reviewing the case. In May 2013, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that Arizona's ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy violated the legal precedents set by Roe v. Wade in 1973, and was therefore unconstitutional.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the 20-week abortion ban into law in 2012. The law has been considered to be one of the strictest pieces of pro-life legislation in the country, only allowing abortions after 20 weeks in the case of medical emergencies. Those who opposed the legislation argued it was stricter than other states with similar laws because the method for determining a gestation period barred abortions two weeks earlier than other states with 20-week abortion bans.
The governor's spokesperson, Andrew Wilder, released a statement Monday decrying the high court's decision to not hear the case, calling it "a clear infringement on the authority of states to implement critical life-affirming laws."
"Governor Brewer will continue to fight to protect Arizona women, families and our most vulnerable population: unborn children."
The Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life political action committee, also released a statement defending the state's 20-week abortion ban and the highly debated argument that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks of gestation. "Arizona legislators, led by pro-life State Rep. Kimberly Yee, were acting on the will of the people when they enacted this compassionate, common sense legislation to protect babies at 20 weeks," Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in the statement.
"Twenty weeks is more than halfway through pregnancy and the point at which babies have all their organs, hear and respond to their mother's voices, and can even feel pain. A growing number of Americans simply reject the horror of late abortion and believe a reasonable line should be drawn. The 9th Circuit Court clearly erred. The law should reflect our natural recoil from this type of brutality."
Pro-abortion groups heralded the Supreme Court's decision, but also criticized the growing number of strict, anti-abortion bills being passed in states. "The Supreme Court soundly declined to review the Ninth Circuit's sound decision that Arizona's abortion ban is clearly unconstitutional under long-standing precedent," Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.
"… But women should not be forced to run to court, year after year, in state after state, to protect their constitutional rights and access to critical health care," Northup continued, adding that women's rights must not be "legislated away by politicians who are hell-bent on restricting access to the full range of reproductive health care."
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments regarding the 2007 Massachusetts law that blocks pro-life protests within 35 feet of an abortion clinic. Those opposing the "Buffer Zone" law argue it violates their constitutional rights to free speech. A U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit previously upheld the state law, and those who support the law argue it ensures public safety for women seeking an abortion and abortion clinic employees.
Dana Cody, an attorney and executive director of Life Legal Defense Foundation, told MassLive.com that the law specifically targets those who oppose abortion. Her pro-life group has filed an amicus brief opposing the law. "It's content-based discrimination," Cody said. "This is about limiting opposition to abortion in a public forum."