WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal to a lower court ruling that struck down Arizona’s 20-week abortion ban as unconstitutional.
Without explanation, the court decided on Monday not to accept the case of Horne v. Isaacson, allowing the block on the law to remain in place.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the Women’s Health and Safety Act into law in 2012, making it the seventh state at the time to ban abortions at 20 weeks. Other provisions were included in the Act, such as regulations surrounding counseling, parental consent and medicinal abortions.
“This legislation is consistent with my strong track record of supporting common sense measures to protect the health of women and safeguard our most vulnerable population–the unborn,” Brewer said in a statement upon signing the legislation.
Abortion advocates then sued Brewer, but the law was upheld by U.S. District Judge James Teilborg, appointed by Bill Clinton, who viewed the legislation as merely a regulation of abortion and not an outright ban on the procedure.
However, last May, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Teilborg’s ruling, opining that the Arizona law flouted “unalterably clear” legal precedent, including the 1973 Supreme Court ruling of Roe v. Wade. The state had argued that it sought to protect babies who would feel pain from the procedure.
“Were the statute limited to protecting fetuses from unnecessary infliction of excruciating pain before their death,” wrote Judge Andrew Kleinfeld, appointed by George H.W. Bush. “Arizona might regulate abortions at or after 20 weeks by requiring anesthetization of the fetuses about to be killed, much as it requires anesthetization of prisoners prior to killing them when the death penalty is carried out.”
Kleinfeld was joined by judges Marsha Berzon and Mary Schroeder in the unanimous ruling. Berzon and Schroeder were appointed by then-Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter respectively.
Arizona Solicitor General David Cole then filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but on Monday, the court decided to let the ruling stand.
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards praised the court for declining the appeal.
“A dangerous and blatantly unconstitutional law like Arizona’s abortion ban should have never passed in the first place,” she commented in a written statement. “Today, the court did the right thing, but women’s health is still on the docket— not only at the Supreme Court, but in active cases all across the country.”
But Governor Jan Brewer’s office expressed disappointment, stating that the 9th Circuit ruling violated the sovereignty of the state. It vowed to continue to work to protect life in Arizona.
“The Supreme Court’s decision to deny [the state’s petition] in this case is wrong, and is a clear infringement on the authority of states to implement critical life-affirming laws,” it wrote. “Governor Brewer will continue to fight to protect Arizona women, families and our most vulnerable population—unborn children.”