The Supreme Court declined Monday to hear an appeal by Arizona officials seeking reinstate a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, letting a lower court’s ruling stand in a big win for pro-choice advocates.
Under the ban, which was ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court, all abortions after 20 weeks would have been illegal, except in the case of narrowly-defined medical emergencies. The ban would have restricted abortions on the widely disputed theory that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks.
The Supreme Court didn’t give a reason for declining to hear Arizona’s appeal, the New York Times reports. The law’s sponsors had hoped the Supreme Court would overturn the appeals court’s decision and allow them to reinstate the law.
The appeals ruled the law was unconstitutional because of the Supreme Court precedent established in Roe v. Wade that women have a right to end a pregnancy before a fetus is viable. Arizona officials acknowledged that fetuses are not considered viable until 24 weeks, but argued that the 20-week ban was more of a regulation than a law, justified by the possibility of fetal pain and women’s health as pregnancy progresses.
Judge Andrew J. Kleinfeld, one of the three judges on the appeals court that heard the Arizona case, said both of the arguments presented by the state were flimsy. If the state were truly motivated to prevent the possibility of fetal pain, he said, “Arizona might regulate abortions at or after 20 weeks by requiring anesthetization of the fetuses about to be killed, much as it requires anesthetization of prisoners prior to killing them when the death penalty is carried out.”