Arizona’s 20 Week Abortion Ban Challenged In Federal Court

Yesterday, three doctors — represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona, and the Center for Reproductive Rights — sued Arizona over the state’s 20-week abortion ban, calling it the most extreme ban in the nation.

Arizona’s law, signed by Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) in April, criminalizes almost all abortions after 20 weeks, even though, at 20 weeks, a fetus firmly pre-viability. Viability is generally agreed to occur in week 23 or 24. The only exception to the law is for immediate medical emergencies.

The ACLU argues that the law violates patients’ right to due process of law:

“Any number of things can happen during a pregnancy, and a woman has to be able to make the right decision for herself and her family,” said Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Whether a woman decides to continue with a high-risk pregnancy or terminate it, the important thing is that women, families and physicians make these decisions — not politicians without any medical training.”


No court has ever upheld such an extreme and dangerous abortion ban,” said Dan Pochoda, legal director of the ACLU of Arizona. “Instead of passing unconstitutional laws and blocking women’s access to critical health services, our legislators should be working to ensure that all women get the care they need to have healthy pregnancies and protect their families.

In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court set up the original framework for when states can intrude on a woman’s right to privacy. The court instituted the viability standard and ruled that state’s can ban abortion outright — with exceptions for a women’s life and health — only after viability. More recently, in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey reaffirmed that standard, specifying viability as “the earliest point at which the State’s interest in fetal life is constitutionally adequate to justify a legislative ban on nontherapeutic abortions.” Arizona’s law clearly appears to violate that standard.

At least six other states have enacted 20-week bans: Nebraska, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, and Oklahoma.

Alex Brown