The ACLU announced today that it would sue over an Arizona law that criminalizes virtually all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with an exception so tightly drawn that doctors say it forces women with high-risk pregnancies to wait until only threat of death or major medical damage would allow an abortion to proceed.
Virtually identical legislation — to criminalize abortion up to the point that a woman's death or major medical damage is likely — died in an Arkansas committee in 2011. Sen. Jason Rapert is mounting his race for election against Rep. Linda Tyler almost solely on the fact that she chaired the committee in which legislation such as this failed. Other bills defeated were similarly punitive, including a fetal heartbeat test requirement that abortion providers said would have required, in some cases, invasive transvaginal tests whether women wanted them or not.
ACLU NEWS RELEASE
The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arizona today sued to challenge an Arizona law banning pre-viability abortions on behalf of two Arizona doctors whose patients include women in need of this essential medical care. Today's lawsuit was also filed on behalf of a third doctor, who is represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights.
The law, the most extreme ban in the nation, criminalizes virtually all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and contains the narrowest possible exception for only immediate medical emergencies. The ban would force a physician caring for a woman with a high-risk pregnancy to wait until her condition imposes an immediate threat of death or major medical damage before offering her the care she needs. The ban also contains no exceptions for a woman who receives the devastating diagnosis that the fetus will not survive after birth.
“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.”
Although very few abortions occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a woman who has an abortion at this point does so for a variety of reasons, including the fact that continuing the pregnancy poses a threat to her health, that the fetus has been diagnosed with a medical condition or anomaly, or that the pregnancy has failed and miscarriage is inevitable. The Arizona Section of the American Congress of Obstetrics & Gynecology has criticized the ban as violating standard practice and interfering with the doctor-patient relationship in a way that is adverse to women’s health.
“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.”
More information about this case can be found at: www.aclu.org/womens-rights/isaacson-v-horne
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The Virginia decision was unanimous.