State Capitol News
3:43 pm
Mon November 5, 2012

Federal Court Heard Arguments on AZ Abortion Law

Federal appellate judges today picked apart arguments by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery on why he thinks state lawmakers can legally ban abortions for most women at 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Montgomery did not dispute that prior U.S. Supreme Court rulings have generally blocked states from banning abortions prior to viability. That's generally considered in the 22 to 24 week range. But he said Arizona legislators, in approving the law earlier this year, had information the high court did not, including the increased risk to the mother's health. But Judge Andrew Klenfeld said that's legally irrelevant.

"People decide to have dangerous, even foolishly dangerous, medical procedures done on themselves all the time," Klenfeld said.

Montgomery also argued lawmakers have evidence a fetus at that point can feel pain. And he pointed out the Supreme Court, in a ruling four years ago in a case called Gonzales, upheld a law banning partial birth abortions. But Kleinfeld, quoting from that ruling, said all that said was that Congress can ban a TYPE of abortion procedure.

"Before viability a state may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy," he said. "It also may not impose upon this right an undue burden which exists if the regulation's purpose or effect is to place a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability."

Montgomery conceded after the hearing the appellate judges could easily rule against him based on precedent, forcing him to take this case to the Supreme Court.

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