NEWSFLASH: A Legal Fight Over Arizona’s Abortion Ban

Arizona state legislators were smug last April when they passed a 20-week abortion ban that remains the earliest abortion restriction in the nation. But enacting this law won’t be a cakewalk for anti-choice Gov. Jan Brewer and co.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and the ACLU of Arizona have joined forces in fighting the Arizona ban, which prohibits abortions from 20 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period in all cases except immediate medical emergencies. The two organizations filed a lawsuit last week on behalf of three doctors, arguing that the law is a “cruel and unconstitutional” attack on Arizona women. Lawyers from the Center and ACLU are asking the federal district court to block the law, which is slated to go into effect Aug. 2.

Arizona’s draconian 20-week abortion ban angered not only pro-choice advocates, but professionals in the medical community for its blatant disregard of pre-natal health concerns, such as testing for fetal abnormalities. The law’s narrow exceptions, according to the ACLU of Arizona, makes it an assault on the right for women to have agency over their bodies and choices. For instance, the ban applies to fetuses that are not expected to survive outside the womb, meaning women would not be able to terminate a medically futile pregnancy.

The ACLU of Arizona also said that the ban is incredibly dangerous for women with high-risk pregnancies:

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.

Three 20-week abortion bans have been passed in 2012, but none have been as extreme as Arizona’s. The law stoked controversy over its use of the term “last menstrual period (LMP)” with many media outlets reporting that Arizona was now redefining “life” and declaring women pregnant two weeks before conception. Using LMP, however, is the correct way to date a pregnancy and is used by all medical professionals. What the Arizona ban revealed was not that the state legislators were using incorrect medical information, but that previously passed 20-week bans in other states used false medical terms—and are not true 20-week bans.

In an April interview with Dr. Jen Gunter, a practicing OB/GYN who frequently writes about reproductive issues, Ms. reported that previous 20-week abortion bans used the term “postfertilization” or “probable fertilization age of the unborn child.” But according to Dr. Gunter, “postfertilization” is not recognized in the medical community; instead, it’s used by anti-choice legislators to presumably reinforce the idea of life from conception. Says Dr. Gunter,

There is no such thing as a fertilization date. It’s gibberish. … Twenty weeks from conception means 22 weeks pregnant [in standard medical terms].

At 20 weeks from LMP, Arizona lays claim to the harshest abortion ban in the nation—a full month earlier than the 24-week, post-viability precedent set in Roe v. Wade. Currently, there are eight states barring abortions after 20 weeks postfertilization—essentially, 22 weeks of pregnancy—with Louisiana being the last state to pass such a ban. Though passing 20-week postfertilization bans have become a trend among anti-choice legislators over the last two years, the Arizona ban will be the first of these early-limit bans to be brought to court.

Photo of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer from Wikimedia Commons. 


  1. I think all men should be required to have a vasectomy at the age of 18 and then go before a judge to get a court order if they want it reversed. If the judge approves they then move on to registering their intent to have children along with submiting their finger prints,a DNA sample and proof of their financial stability.

  2. haha @Tai…while I can’t tell if you are serious or sarcastic, your post is hilarious…obviously, that would be a complete affront to men’s reproductive rights, but it’s nice to see someone take extreme (EXTREME ha) view and see how it could turn if we start regulating men’s reproductive rights.

    While I think Roe v. Wade (and its progeny) are not the best, strongest, most legitimate Constitutional law case(s), I think this Arizona law is dangerous if only because a woeman should be allowed access up until medical tests related to any disabilities/abnormalities can be detected in the fetus. Up until the point, a woman definitely needs access in case issues are detected at that point.

  3. Ugh how disgusting! Using medically incorrect information and fear tactics reading this makes me upset that people everywhere in that state especially women aren’t fighting this. It makes me grateful I have a prochoice doctor and even good for nothing Prime minister Harper said we are not going to open up the abortion debate when conservative extremists were bringing it up. I am so glad I don’t live there! I also have an awesome prochoice doctor and I know a sexual health clinic in my area that provides abortion should I ever need one. People must fight the ignorance of the antichoice with all we have in us, one cannot kill what never was, abortion is so far from murder its laughable.

  4. sry I think I repeated something twice I guess I am just that grateful for it lol. I know there are some people fighting it in the state but for everyone to be alarmed is disturbing. This is an insult to all people who either are women or respect them. To anyone who believes their body belongs to them. Its more than simply cruel forcing women to bear children they do not desire is brutal and inhumane.

  5. Debra istvanik-Strotman says:

    Jan Brewer is a very dangerous woman as is Michele Bachman. They are so worried about unborn children and yet Brewer as let many die in her state because these people could not afford to pay for organ transplants. So she wants you to have the baby but should this new arrival need surgery and you have no money then she wants you to say your goodbyes and unplug your child, parent, sibling.

    On but Jan has millions to give for the research of fish..Priorities!
    I can assure you if a member of Brewer’s family needs surgery and has no money that person would get the care needed, after all Brewer would see to it.
    Wake up America before these Tea party psycho’s destroy all of us.

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