A federal court struck down Arizona's ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy—a law that was the model for one Georgia Republicans, led by former Athens state Rep. Doug McKillip, passed last year.
By angering women and liberals, that "fetal pain" law helped cost McKillip his seat. And now, it looks like it may not stay on the books for long.
The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the Arizona law is "unconstitutional under an unbroken stream of Supreme Court authority."
Nancy Northrup, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, called the decision a “huge victory in the fight to protect women’s fundamental reproductive rights,” and said the decision should send a clear message to the other states that are attempting to limit abortion access before the point of viability (when a fetus can survive outside the womb, generally considered 24 or 26 weeks).
Those states include Georgia, as well as North Dakota and Arkansas, which have even stricter bans. The Ninth Circuit decision only applies to eight Western states, but the ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the Georgia law, and a Fulton County Superior Court judge temporarily blocked it in December, days before it would have taken effect.
Not only are such laws unconstitutional, they also don't save many fetuses. Only 1.3 percent of abortions (about 8,000 per year) occur after 20 weeks. Of those, 70 percent are because of a "serious or lethal fetal abnormality." Many of those abnormalities can't be detected by ultrasound until after the 20-week mark.
As for the fetal pain argument, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says "there is no credible scientific evidence of pre-viability fetal pain perception," a claim backed up by several scientific studies.