US Appeals Court Blocks Arizona’s Extreme 20-Week Abortion Ban

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Earlier this week, I was disappointed to see that an Arizona judge had upheld his state’s unconstitutional ban on abortion after 20-weeks, even in cases of rape or incest, even when the health of the mother or child is questionable. Arizona’s new legislation would have been the most extreme in the country. And it could have made procedures like mine, where I had to terminate a pregnancy that I wanted very much because it threatened my life, a government decision instead of a personal choice.

Thankfully, a three-judge panel in the US Appeals Court blocked this controversial new law from going into effect on Thursday. It’s a brief reprieve for the fight to ensure that reproductive health decisions are made by women and their doctors, not legislators.

Abortion after 20 weeks is already very rare in Arizona. Since 2010, only 77 of the state’s 11,059 abortions happened at 21 weeks or after. The majority of abortions happen in the first 12 weeks after a woman’s missed period.

In recent years, six states have enacted laws like Arizona’s, banning abortion at 20 weeks on the grounds of contested research saying that fetuses can feel pain at this time. Arizona’s is considered the most extreme because the wording protecting mothers who might need an abortion for medical reasons is contradictory and vague. Also, the law doesn’t provide exceptions for rape and incest, issues that are almost always given special consideration, even in anti-abortion movements.

Arizona marks the first time that pro-choice advocates have fought back against the 20-week bans. The constitution guarantees abortion rights before viability, generally accepted to happened between 22 and 24 weeks of pregnancy. This case is an important step in reproductive health rights for women.

The ACLU, who has been battling on behalf of the abortion providers of Arizona, were relieved by the Appeals Court’s intervention. They have until mid-October to make their care against the law. “We are relieved that the court blocked this dangerous ban and that women in Arizona will continue to be able to get safe, appropriate medical care,” ACLU staff attorney Alexa Kolbi-Molinas said in a statement.

The case guarantees that Arizona will be at the center of yet another political issue. Their landmark immigration legislation that was recently struck down by the Supreme Court has made them a hotbed of social politics. Their abortion case is sure to do the same.

The whole world, and this woman in particular, will be watching the case, hoping that the reproductive rights of females are preserved. My ectopic pregnancy was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. Saying goodbye to that baby was a heartbreak that I still don’t know how to explain. The thought of the legal system getting in between me and my doctor, telling me what I could or couldn’t have done, is unbelievable. I never want to see the time when doctors have to stop treating difficult cases like mine for fear of retribution from the government.

(Photo: kentoh/Shutterstock)