A federal court in San Francisco has struck down Arizona's ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless there's a medical emergency.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the law violates a string of U.S. Supreme Court rulings starting with Roe v. Wade that guarantees a woman's right to an abortion before a fetus is able to survive outside the womb. That's generally considered to be about 24 weeks. Normal pregnancies run about 40 weeks.
Several states have enacted similar bans starting at 20 weeks. But the 9th Circuit's ruling is binding only in the nine Western states under the court's jurisdiction. Idaho is the only other Western state covered by the 9th Circuit with a similar ban.
"This ruling is not surprising nor am I discouraged at the prospects of this important law ultimately being upheld," said Cathi Herrod, president of Center for Arizona Policy. "The 9th Circuit Court is historically one of the most overturned appellate courts in the nation. Based on the facts of this case, I am confident that this Court will be overturned once again."
On July 30, 2012, Federal District Court Judge James Teilborg upheld the constitutionality of the law based on the significant risks that abortion presents to the health and safety of the mother, the Center for Arizona Policy said. Judge Teilborg also upheld the law because of the scientific data that proves preborn children can feel pain in the womb at this age, the center said.
In its ruling today, the Court disregarded this evidence, the center said.
"The Court put a pro-abortion ideology before the health and safety of women and preborn children," Herrod said. "The Court held to the vague standard that abortions can only be limited based on whether the child is viable, even though they confessed viability is not a 'fixed' point."
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery issued the following statement:
"The ruling is disappointing in that it permits the Kermit Gosnells of the country to continue their grisly operations under legal protection while denying Arizona the ability to protect expectant mothers and their children in the womb.
"While the Ninth Circuit Opinion states its reliance on current United States Supreme Court precedent, the Opinion fails to acknowledge that the collision course Justice O'Connor noted Roe was on is coming to the point of impact. Likewise, the Opinion did not fairly address the fact that current maternal and fetal medical evidence has pushed viability past the tipping point where the balance of interests is now in favor of states' protecting mothers and babies.
"Nonetheless, the Opinion provides the United States Supreme Court with the opportunity to recognize advances in maternal and fetal medicine far from the day on which Roe v. Wade was originally decided. Judge Kleinfeld's concurrence underscores the irrational line of 'viability' as a standard that can permit the destruction of a child one week or be the reason for charging the murder of another child the next week.
"Given the compelling and important interest Arizona has in protecting the health and well-being of expectant mothers from the dangers of abortions after 20 weeks and to protect children in the womb from needless and horrific imposition of pain, we will seek review from the United States Supreme Court. If the 9th Circuit cannot permit Arizona to act because of Supreme Court precedent, then the Supreme Court must change that precedent."
Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation) contributed to this report.