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Supreme Court declines to rule on Arizona 20-week abortion law

The US Supreme Court [official website] on Monday declined to rule in Horne v. Isaacson [docket], bypassing its opportunity to rule on Arizona's new ban of abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy. In 2012, the state defended the statute [text, PDF] by arguing that this stricter regulation would reduce the fetus' likelihood to feel pain and decrease health risks for the women. However, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] last May that the Arizona law violates women's rights, making it "per se unconstitutional." The Supreme Court's decision on the Arizona case would have given clarity on whether state legislatures were permitted to ban abortions at earlier stages in a woman's pregnancy. Significantly, it would have provided guidance on whether viability is still considered the medical threshold for state bans as determined by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade [opinion]. No comment was given by the court to provide an explanation for the refusal to hear the appeal.

This is the latest development in the ongoing reproductive rights controversy [JURIST backgrounder] in the US. In November Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne asked the Supreme Court to reconsider a controversial Arizona law that would strip Medicaid funding [JURIST report] from doctors and clinics that perform abortions. In October a federal judge dismissed a challenge [JURIST report] to Arizona's race based abortion laws. In October 2012 the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit declined to reconsider its August decision to allow Texas to defund Planned Parenthood [JURIST reports]. The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld an injunction [JURIST report] against an Indiana law that would block Medicaid funding for abortion providers earlier that same month. In August the Fifth Circuit upheld Louisiana's Act 490, which allows the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) to revoke an abortion clinic's license [JURIST report] immediately after a regulation violation, rather than allowing the abortion clinic time to comply with the regulation. That same month a Kansas judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging the state's new abortion clinic regulations after state officials asked that they be upheld without a trial.

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