High Court's Pass On 'Fetal Pain' Abortion Case Unlikely To Cool Debate : It's All Politics The Supreme Court's decision not to review a lower court ruling on Arizona's "fetal pain" law has abortion rights advocates hailing the move as a signal the court isn't inclined to take on the 40-year precedent of Roe v. Wade.
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High Court's Pass On 'Fetal Pain' Abortion Case Unlikely To Cool Debate

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High Court's Pass On 'Fetal Pain' Abortion Case Unlikely To Cool Debate


The Supreme Court also made news today by deciding not to take a case. It let stand a lower court ruling that found an abortion ban passed by the state of Arizona in 2012 to be unconstitutional. NPR's Julie Rovner reports on what this could mean for the dozen or so other states with similar bans.

JULIE ROVNER, BYLINE: The idea behind the Arizona law and those like it is to ban most abortions after around 20 weeks of pregnancy on the contested scientific ground that fetuses can begin to feel to pain at that point. But because of the way Arizona legislators measured pregnancy, its ban actually would've begun around 18 weeks of pregnancy. Both sides in the case conceded that was well before fetal viability and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the law as unconstitutional, noting that the Supreme Court has long held states cannot ban abortion before viability.

In that sense, the Supreme Court's decision to let the appeals court ruling stand was not that much of a surprise, said Nancy Northup. She's president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, one of the groups that sued to block the Arizona law.

NANCY NORTHUP: Very solid 40-plus years of Supreme Court precedent says that you cannot ban abortion this early in pregnancy, and the Supreme Court did not say we want to take a look at that again.

ROVNER: But the fact that the court didn't take this case, she says, does not mean it won't accept one of the others now working its way through the system.

NORTHUP: You can never read into the court's decision to deny review of a case what the thinking of the court is behind it, so it doesn't say they're not going to take another look at one of these cases.

ROVNER: And those pushing the 20-week bans, like Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Anti-Abortion Susan B. Anthony List, are taking the news in stride.

MARJORIE DANNENFELSER: This is a disappointment but not a major setback. It's part of the crooked line to passage that the partial birth abortion ban took and so we are full steam ahead.

ROVNER: Indeed, the Supreme Court struck down a Nebraska law outlawing that controversial late-abortion procedure in 2000 before a different majority upheld a federal ban in 2007. Julie Rovner, NPR News, Washington.

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