Judge Upholds Arizona's Extreme Abortion Law

| Mon Jul. 30, 2012 3:11 PM EDT

UPDATE: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted the request for an emergency stay on Wednesday, blocking the law from going into effect for at least two months.

ORIGINAL POST: A judge in Arizona rejected a challenge to the state's new law banning abortions after the first 20 weeks of a pregnancy on Monday. The ruling is a setback for abortion rights groups who argued that the law was the most extreme new limit on women's access to abortion in the United States.

Over the past two years, eight states, including Arizona, have passed similar laws banning abortions after 20 weeks. But Arizona's law was the first that big, national reproductive rights groups like the Center for Reproductive Rights and the ACLU challenged in court. The groups argued on behalf of three Arizona doctors that the law stands counter to the previous US Supreme Court rulings that found that abortion should be legal until viability, which is typically sometime around 24 weeks into a pregnancy. Lawyers for the groups also pointed out that the Arizona law includes a very narrow exception, only allowing an abortion if the mother's life is in immediate danger.

The judge in the case, James Teilborg, argued that the law is not an outright ban on all abortions after 20 weeks, since it includes some exceptions. Teilborg ruled that the plaintiffs could not challenge the 20-week ban before it takes effect, but did not rule out a future challenge based on how the law ends up affecting specific women or doctors.

The plaintiffs say waiting until after the law in being enforced would essentially put the courts in charge of determining what medical care is necessary, rather than women or their doctors. "We will do everything we can to stop this law from going into effect," Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, told Mother Jones. The groups said they will file an appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and seek an emergency stay to prevent the law from taking effect on August 2.