Last week I wrote about the dire situation for women in North Dakota, where the state’s only abortion clinic, the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, is fighting to stay open.
The North Dakota struggle continues, but we can celebrate two recent victories in the War on Women.
Victory In Arizona
In 2012, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law what was at the time (before N. Dakota and Arkansas) the country’s most extreme abortion ban: a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, absent a medical emergency.
On Tuesday, a federal appeals court struck down that law.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit stated that the Arizona law violated a woman’s constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy before a fetus is viable, meaning that it is able to survive outside the womb. That viability is generally considered to start at 22-24 weeks, while normal pregnancies run about 40 weeks.
Judge Marsha Berzon, writing for the unanimous three-judge panel, said abortion bans before viability violated numerous U.S. Supreme Court rulings, beginning with the 1973 Roe vs Wade decision, which legalized abortion until a fetus could survive viably outside the womb. Berzon wrote that “a woman has a constitutional right to choose to terminate her pregnancy before the foetus is viable.”
The 9th Circuit is based in San Francisco, and its ruling is binding only in the nine western states under the court’s jurisdiction.
From The Guardian:
Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed the ban into law in April 2012, after it was approved by the Republican-led legislature. Supporters said the law was meant to protect the mother’s health and prevent foetuses from feeling pain. A US district judge, James Teilborg, ruled it was constitutional, partly because of those concerns, but the 9th circuit blocked the ban from going into effect until it ruled.
Victory In Arkansas
In another success story, a federal judge has temporarily blocked an Arkansas law that is even worse than Arizona’s. (One has to wonder: are these Republican legislators in some sort of competition to come up with the most egregious regulations of women’s lives?)
On May 17, U.S. district judge Susan Webber Wright granted a request for a preliminary injunction against an Arkansas law, due to take effect in August, that would have prohibited abortions in the state from 12 weeks of pregnancy, pending a legal challenge from pro-choice groups.
The measure was pushed through in March by Republicans in the legislature, who overrode a veto from Democratic governor Mike Beebe. Almost immediately attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Center for Reproductive Rights got together and sued the state on behalf of two Little Rock abortion providers.
Following the judge’s decision, the ACLU said it would continue to push for a permanent shelving of the proposed ban.
But It’s Not Over Yet
In addition to Arizona, Arkansas and North Dakota, seven other states have enacted similar laws, banning abortions starting at 20 weeks or earlier: Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Oklahoma.
None of these laws has an adequate health exception or an exception for cases or rape or incest.
The good news is that several of those bans have been placed on hold or struck down by other courts, notably in Idaho, where last March a federal judge ruled the 20-week ban unconstitutional.
Let’s celebrate the victories, but keep up the fight for women everywhere.
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