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Arizona's restrictive 20-week abortion law overturned as unconstitutional

Arizona's restrictive 20-week abortion law overturned as unconstitutional

Arizona is no stranger to restrictive laws, particularly where immigration and women's reproductive rights are concerned.

With regard to immigration, the God Discussion reported on 28 January 2013, about Republican Representative Steve Smith's HB2293, which would require hospitals to make a decision on the immigration status of anyone who shows up without proof of health insurance.

The bill provides methods that can be used to determine whether a patient is in the country illegally, and that if such a determination cannot be made, the authorities (in this case, law enforcement or immigration officials) are to be contacted.

Pete Wertheim, the Vice President of Strategic Communication for the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association has spoken out against the measure, telling reporters,

"When does this begin or end? What other industry should be screening their customers for citizenship verification?"

Another bill, HB2289, was presented, as well. In this measure, the Arizona Department of Education would be required to collect data regarding the immigration status of students, and if those students are deemed undocumented, they can be turned away. This measure is contrary to the Federal law, which states that public schools are required by law to educate all children, without regard to their immigration status.

With regard to reproductive rights, on 27 November 2012, the God Discussion reported on on a story involving the state of Arizona launching a website that was designed to encourage women not to have abortions. We reported that the website is misleading, being billed as offering information that 'women have the right to know.'

The website was launched shortly after HB2036, legislation sponsored by Republican legislator Kimberly Yee, from Phoenix, was passed. Legislation that contained one of the nations most restrictive bans on abortion, including the requirement of a mandatory ultrasound prior to the procedure.

It is HB2036 which is the topic of our story, today. Essentially, it bans abortion at 20 weeks, with the potentiality to ban at 18 weeks after conception.

Those in favor of women's reproductive rights scored a win this week, when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Arizona law.

The court ruled it as unconstitutional, deciding that the measure violates the viability precedent of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which places viability at roughly 24 weeks.

In March of this year, the 20-week ban that Idaho enacted was also struck down as unconstitutional.

The Roe v. Wade decision was based on scientific evidence that supports a fetus being capable of surviving outside the womb after that time.

The opinion was written by Judge Marsha Berzon, as,

A woman has a constitutional right to choose to terminate her pregnancy before the fetus is viable. A prohibition on the exercise of that right is per se unconstitutional… 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.”

HB2036 was passed on the erroneous assumption from junk science that fetuses are capable of feeling pain past twenty weeks. However, Arizona plans to appeal the case to the Supreme Court in hopes of changing the viability ruling.

This could end up being an effort that ends up in favor of the pro-choice movement, as the Supreme Court is not likely to make any changes to Roe v. Wade, and a ruling at that level could have effect on the flurry of extremely restrictive anti-abortion laws that have been cropping up in various states over the past several years.

About Al Stefanelli

Al is a retired author, writer and journalist. His books include "Free Thoughts - A Collection Of Essays By An American Atheist" and "A Voice Of Reason In An Unreasonable World - The Rise Of Atheism On Planet Earth." Al began writing in 1985, starting with the New York Times. In 1993 he joined a McClatchy newspaper, writing a weekly column for ten years. His writing continues to be widely distributed on the Internet and in print. He also produced and hosted a weekly syndicated radio broadcast from 1995 to 1998, and his work won a North Carolina Journalism award in 1998. Al is the former Georgia State Director for American Atheists, Inc., and served on the Board of Directors for "The Clergy Project." He is also a former Southern Baptist Pastor, having served two churches and as pulpit supply for three counties. Currently, he writes part time for The God Discussion, co-hosts the Internet radio programs, "The God Discussion Show" and "Reap Sow Radio." Al lives in the Atlanta suburb of Peachtree City, GA.
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