In a devastating setback for women in Arizona, a federal judge yesterday upheld a state law that bans all abortion procedures at 20 weeks from a woman’s last menstrual period (PDF). This law is an unconstitutional attempt to take away from women, their doctors, and their families an extremely personal, medical decision. It harms women in the most desperate situations by ignoring women’s health needs and individual circumstances.

Passing these types of laws has been a recent trend in the states, spurred by those who want to see Roe v. Wade overturned. Since 2010, when Nebraska passed the first such law, states have taken them up with alarming speed. There are now 9 states that ban abortion earlier in pregnancy than current law allows. We’ve already seen the devastating consequences for women in Nebraska.

As bad as all of these laws are, the Arizona law is particularly egregious. It bans abortion earlier than the other state laws, with only a severely limited emergency exception. 

The judge’s decision flies in the face of established law and completely disregards core protections for women that have existed since Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court has long made it clear that states cannot ban abortion before viability, which is a determination left to the physician. Moreover, any restrictions on abortion must make exceptions for circumstances when abortion is necessary to save the life or health of the woman.

The law takes effect August 2, putting Arizona women’s lives and health at immediate risk. The ACLU and Center for Reproductive Rights have announced their intention to file an emergency appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Let’s hope that court will respect decades of legal precedent and strike down the law.

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