PHOENIX — Arizona is taking center stage in the fight over how far state lawmakers can go to curb abortion rights.
The battle was joined this past week when the Center for Reproductive Rights asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block Arizona from enforcing its ban on the procedure at 20 weeks. That is in response to a petition to the justices filed this summer by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery urging them to declare the state restriction legal.
What the high court ultimately decides will affect more than the rights of women in Arizona.
Janet Crepps, the lead attorney for foes of the law, noted that other states have adopted similar laws.
But she said this is the first case to get to the Supreme Court.That means what the court decides will ultimately have nationwide implications.
Until 2012, Arizona regulated but did not ban any abortions before viability, something Crepps said occurs around the 24th week after a woman’s last menstrual cycle. No one has argued it happens before 22 weeks.
But state legislators, pushed by Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, approved the 20-week ban, saying they now have evidence a fetus at 20 weeks can feel pain. They also cited testimony of a woman’s higher risk in the procedure at that point.
The only exceptions are for conditions that would result in the woman’s death or “serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.’’
Crepps, representing several Arizona doctors who perform abortions beyond 20 weeks, filed suit.
She said a majority of their patients at that point have abortions due to fetal abnormalities or to protect their health.
A trial judge ruled the law valid, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it is directly contrary to the historic 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade saying the government cannot interfere with a woman’s right to an abortion prior to viability. So in August, Montgomery asked the high court to intercede.
Crepps, in her legal filing this week, said the justices should rebuff the request.
“The court has identified this, that the state can’t ban abortion prior to viability, as a central tenet, core component, the heart of the decision in Roe v. Wade,” said Crepps.