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High court rejects Ariz. abortion restriction case

Jan. 13, 2014 at 10:53 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court Monday refused to review a lower-court ruling that outlawed Arizona's ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The rejection came in a one-line order without comment.

SCOTUSBLOG.com reported the Arizona case was the the first to reach the justices as part of a new wave of state restrictions on abortions. In early January, a report by the Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit group in New York, found 22 states enacted 70 abortion restrictions in 2013 -- making 2013 second only to 2011 in the number of new abortion restrictions enacted in a single year.

Abortion rights advocates challenged the Arizona law just before it was to go into effect in August 2012. A federal judge rejected the challenge, but eventually the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, headquartered in San Francisco, struck down the relevant provisions of the law as unconstitutional.

The prevailing opinion from the three-judge appeals panel said the question of fetal pain, one of the justifications for the state law, was less relevant than viability, state officials said in a petition to the U.S.Supreme Court.

Arizona unsuccessfully asked the high court for review, citing a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court precedent upholding a ban on "partial-birth abortion."

"This [Supreme] Court upheld a prohibition on partial-birth abortion that operated throughout pregnancy, pre- as well as post-viability," the state's petition said, "in deference to Congress's legislative findings that the prohibition protected against fetal pain and upheld the integrity of the medical profession by drawing a bright line between abortion and infanticide."

The state said its Legislature made findings "that documented evidence of fetal pain and dramatically increased maternal health risks warranted limitations on abortion after 20 weeks gestational age [a few weeks short of viability based on currently available medicine] except when necessary to avoid death or serious health risk to the mother."

The appeals court panel ruled "that Arizona's statute was 'per se unconstitutional' because it applied to pre-viability abortions," the petition said.

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