Appeals Court Panel Temporarily Blocks Arizona’s law prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy

By Dave Andrusko

U.S. District Judge James A. Teilborg had upheld Arizona’s new law

Without explanation, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday temporary prohibited Arizona from enforcing a new state law that generally prohibits abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The measure was signed into law in May by Gov. Jan Brewer.

No sooner had the law been upheld Monday by U.S. District Judge James A. Teilborg than The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and the ACLU filed an emergency appeal.

The Arizona law will be on hold until a pending appeal is decided. The panel said only that legal briefs are due in September and October and that it would hold a hearing as soon as possible.

In a statement CRR President Nancy Northup described the 9th Circuit’s order as “a vital reaffirmation.”  By contrast Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, who defended the law during a hearing before Judge Teilborg last week, told the Associated Press that the 9th Circuit panel’s willingness to hear the case relatively quickly was a positive.

“The order to place the case for argument recognizes the important interests of Arizona,” he said.

Steven H. Aden, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom which is also involved in defending the law, added, “Though the 9th Circuit’s stay is regrettable, all it has done is give itself time to fully consider the case. Once it does, it should see the merits of the district court’s decision and uphold Arizona’s law.”

In upholding Arizona’s new law Judge Teilborg specifically found that “by 20 weeks, sensory receptors develop all over the child’s body” and “when provoked by painful stimuli, such as a needle, the child reacts, as measured by increases in the child’s stress hormones, heart rate, and blood pressure.” Teilborg quoted a U.S. Supreme Court decision describing the D&E method of abortion used at this age:  “[F]riction causes the fetus to tear apart. For example, a leg might be ripped off the fetus . . .” 

He described another abortion method also used: “In an induction procedure, the fetus is injected with a medication that induces a heart attack.’”

Judge Teilborg concluded, “Given the nature of D &Es and induction abortions . . . this Court concludes that the State has shown a legitimate interest in limiting abortions past 20 weeks gestational age.”

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