The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against an Arizona law banning abortions after 20 weeks, but backers of the measure are hopeful that the case will result in a favorable Supreme Court decision.
“The decision from the Ninth Circuit was expected, but is nonetheless disappointing,” Ronald Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, told CNA May 23.
“I have always felt that the United States Supreme Court would have the last word on this case. There is also some comfort in knowing that the Ninth Circuit is the most overturned circuit in the country.”
A three-judge panel from the federal appeals court unanimously said the law violated both Roe v. Wade and the 2007 decision Gonzales v. Carhart.
“Arizona simply cannot proscribe a woman from choosing to obtain an abortion before the fetus is viable,” the panel said.
Gov. Jan Brewer signed the law in April 2012. It barred abortions after 20 weeks into pregnancy, excepting only medical emergencies that threaten the life of the mother. A federal district judge upheld the law in July, the Arizona Republic reports.
Cathi Herrod, President of the Center for Arizona Policy, charged that the Ninth Circuit decision disregarded evidence that proves unborn children can feel pain in the womb at 20 weeks or later.
“The court put a pro-abortion ideology before the health and safety of women and preborn children,” Herrod said May 21. “The court held to the vague standard that abortions can only be limited based on whether the child is viable, even though they confessed viability is not a ‘fixed’ point.”
State Sen. Kimberly Yee, a Phoenix Republican who sponsored the bill, said she is optimistic that the Supreme Court will take up the case.
Yee, who herself is 20 weeks pregnant, referred to her own pregnancy. “Without a doubt, this is life,” she said.
Supporters of the court’s decision include attorney Janet Crepps of the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights.
She said constitutional law protects the right to choose abortion up to the point of the viability of the unborn child.
“The state can’t cross that line, it can’t fudge that line,” Crepps told the Arizona Republic.
Maricopa County Attorney General Bill Montgomery said he will appeal to the Supreme Court. He said the law is an opportunity for the court to consider other issues than viability alone, including arguments based on advances in medical technology that provide evidence that unborn babies can feel pain. He said the court can also consider the health risk to women from abortions performed after 20 weeks.
However, the Supreme Court must first decide to hear the case.
Johnson said Arizona’s partial-birth abortion ban remains in effect. The state has several other pro-life laws that require informed consent and a 24-hour waiting period for women considering abortions.
“These laws are making a difference in reducing the number of abortions and protecting unborn babies,” he said.
The Arizona court case comes after Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell was convicted on three counts of first-degree homicide for killing babies born alive. Recent news stories have focused attention on allegations that Texas abortionist Douglas Karpen delivered late-term babies and killed them in gruesome ways.
Johnson said he believes that these controversies surrounding these cases “have helped expose the inhumanity that occurs within the abortion industry.”
“It also shows that while good laws are important, more needs to be done to make sure that pro-life laws are being followed,” he said.