The Supreme Court declined to review the appeals court decision that struck down Arizona's controversial 20-week abortion ban, effectively ending the chance to reinstate it. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals's ruling invalidating the law will stand, and Arizona won't be able to enforce its restrictive new law.
The law, signed by Gov. Jan Brewer in 2012, would have restricted abortions a mere 20 weeks after conception, making it among the most restrictive laws in the nation. The 9th Circuit struck down it last year, based on a series of Supreme Court decisions on the subject, going back to Roe v. Wade. Currently, a woman's right to an abortion is constitutionally protected so long as the fetus is not "viable." That generally allows women to have the procedure up to 24 weeks. As many have argued, that seems to put Arizona's law in direct conflict with those constitutional protections and in its May opinion on a ACLU lawsuit challenging, the 9th Circuit agreed. Judge Marsha S. Berzon wrote that doctors, not legislators, should determine a fetus's viability. She added:
“While the state may regulate the model and manner of abortion prior to fetal viability, it may not proscribe a woman from electing abortion, nor may it impose an undue burden on her choice through regulation."
The implications of today's refusal from the high court has implications for other states with similar laws. Anti-abortion advocates started a state-by-state effort in recent years to chip away at current viability constitutional protections by encouraging states to pass stricter restrictions on the procedure. Many of the laws cite a scientifically-dubious claim that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks (or even earlier), effectively proposing to tweak the viability standard based on that claim. Nine states, including Texas, use this standard to restrict abortions at around 20 weeks. Arkansas and North Dakota have passed even more restrictive laws, banning abortions at 12 and at 6 weeks, respectively. Both states have been delayed or blocked from enforcing those laws by the courts, if today's ruling is any indication, they will likely stay that way.