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U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear Arizona abortion appeal

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Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to review an appeals court ruling that said an Arizona law banning abortions starting at 20 weeks of gestation is unconstitutional, meaning the restrictive state law is struck down.

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The high court's decision not to hear the state's appeal means that a May 2013 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that invalidated the law, saying it violated "unalterably clear" legal precedents, remains intact.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a Republican, signed the bill into law in April 2012.

The last time the Supreme Court took up an abortion case was in 2007 when it ruled 5-4 to uphold a federal law that banned a late-term abortion procedure.

In the landmark Roe v. Wade case in 1973, the court said that women have a right to have an abortion up until the time when the fetus becomes viable.

In a 1992 ruling, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the court clarified that an abortion regulation can be legal as long as it does not impose an "undue burden" on women seeking the procedure.

The Arizona law bans abortions up to a month before the point of viability, which medical experts say is around the 23-to-24-week mark. The state already has a separate law on the books banning abortions after a fetus is viable except when the mother's life is in danger.

The law at issue in Monday's decision prohibits physicians from carrying out abortions starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in medical emergencies, and could send doctors who perform them to jail.

Abortion rights groups had said the measure was more extreme than similar laws in other states because the way Arizona measures gestation means it would bar abortions two weeks earlier than in other states.

Those states also set the limit at 20 weeks but have different ways of calculating gestation time. Three abortion providers challenged the Arizona law in court. The appeals court had earlier blocked the law from going into effect, pending the legal challenge.

Several states, including Texas, have recently enacted laws restricting abortions. One of the provisions of the Texas law, which has also been challenged, requires doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic where the abortion is performed in case women have complications.

The Arizona case is Horne v. Isaacson, U.S. Supreme Court, 13-402.

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