The case concerned an Arizona law, enacted in 2012, that prohibits abortions, except in medical emergencies, when the gestational age of the fetus is more than 20 weeks. The law’s definition of medical emergency is narrow, encompassing conditions requiring immediate abortion to avert a pregnant woman’s death or a “serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”A panel of three judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled eight months ago that the law was unconstitutional.
The law’s sponsors claimed that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks, a contention that has been disputed by major medical groups.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who pushed for the law in 2012, seems a bit confused about constitutionality. She claimed through spokesman Andrew Wilder that the Court's decision not to take up the case "is wrong, and is a clear infringement on the authority of states to implement critical life-affirming laws."
In fact, "viability" of the fetus outside the womb has long been the Supreme Court's standard, and the Ninth Circuit ruled Arizona "may not deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her pregnancy at any point prior to viability," and labeled the law "unconstitutional under an unbroken stream of Supreme Court authority, beginning with Roe and ending with Gonzalez [v. Carhart]." In March, the Ninth Circuit also struck down Idaho's 20-week ban on abortions. Eight other states still have such laws on the books, all of them held up in the courts.
Please read more about the Court's decision below the fold:
The Arizona law had been challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights. Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the center, said:
“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. This ensures that no Arizona women’s lives or health are harmed by this callous and unconstitutional law. 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. Our fundamental rights are not up for debate and cannot be legislated away by politicians who are hell bent on restricting access to the full range of reproductive health care.”Arizona's law was only one of 205 forced-birther laws passed by the states in the past three years. More laws were passed during that period, according to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute, than in the decade of 2001-2010 when 189 such laws were enacted.
Politicians from coast to coast have aggressively moved to impose laws undermining or removing women's right to make their own decisions about pregnancy together with their doctors. Getting a safe, legal abortion has been made more difficult depending on where a woman lives. Various laws—from medically unnecessary clinic requirements to bans on telemedicine for abortions—have been tested by advocates in one state and then introduced in others as part of a concerted nationwide effort.
In November, Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal, Tammy Baldwin and Sen. Barbara Boxer, and Reps. Judy Chu, Lois Frankel and Marcia Fudge,introduced the Women's Health Protection Act. The bill would reaffirm Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey by blocking states from enacting measures like the 20-week gestation limit as well as fetal heartbeat bills, fetal pain legislation, unnecessary clinic rules and a plethora of other efforts to make abortions ever tougher to obtain. The bill would mandate that state laws touted as protecting women’s health actually do so, an assertion which few, if any, of the anti-abortion measures can legitimately make.
The bill will obviously not clear the House of Representatives now in the control of extremist Republicans. But it's an example of the kind of legislation across a whole range of issues that Democrats should be putting forth to let Americans know what they would do if they actually did have a working majority in both houses of Congress.