Supreme Court Declines To Consider Arizona Abortion Law

Jan 13, 2014
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And some news from the Supreme Court this morning: The justices have decided not to intervene in a legal battle over abortion in the state of Arizona. Earlier, an appeals court said the state's law banning most abortions after 20 weeks was unconstitutional. The high court's decision today not to review the case effectively blocks that ban from coming into place in Arizona.

NPR's Julie Rovner joins us to talk about the implications of this. Hi, Julie.


GREENE: So remind us again what this law would have done, if it came into place.

ROVNER: Well, like about a dozen states, Arizona was trying to ban abortions after a certain point in pregnancy, on the contested scientific theory that fetuses can begin to feel pain at about 20 weeks' gestation. But all these states are measuring pregnancy slightly differently. Arizona's law, in fact, measured pregnancy such that it really would have banned abortion at what most medical professionals considered 18 weeks of pregnancy, rather than 20. And the appeals court last spring said that conflicted with what it called a, quote, "unbroken stream of Supreme of Court authority" that says states can't ban abortion prior to fetal viability - which is also a contested point but clearly, several weeks later than 18 or even 20 weeks of pregnancy.

GREENE: Well, so you mentioned that there are other states who have these 20-week abortion bans. Does this decision tell us anything about the constitutionality of those, and what the Supreme Court might do with other states' laws?

ROVNER: Well, I think it tells us something, but not a whole lot. The general consensus was that Arizona was kind of an outlier, because its ban was really a couple of weeks earlier than the others. So we'll have to see if the Supreme Court decides to take up another one of these state laws, once one of them gets to that point.

GREENE: All right. NPR's Julie Rovner, thanks so much for coming in.

ROVNER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.