Court nixes Idaho's 20-week abortion ban

 

A federal appeals court on Friday struck down an Idaho law banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, ruling the law unconstitutional.

The ruling comes a few weeks after the U.S. House passed legislation that would ban abortions after the same timespan, sending it to the Senate.

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The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said Idaho's law violates Supreme Court precedent protecting abortions up to the point of viability for a fetus, which has been considered to be around 24 weeks.

Courts have struck down such bans before. In 2013, the 9th Circuit also ruled an Arizona ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy to be unconstitutional. The Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to that decision.

Ten states currently have 20-week abortion bans, according to the pro-abortion rights Guttmacher Institute.

When the 20-week ban was moving through the House this month, supporters argued the effort was intended to set up a court challenge down the line.

“I think this is likely to get a challenge in the court, and I think it’s likely to prevail,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chairman of the Pro-Life Caucus, told The Hill this month.

There has been rising support for 20-week bans among Republicans. The anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List has touted that a wide-range of likely Republican presidential candidates support such bans, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announcing his support in March.

The decision Friday ruled that Idaho’s law violates Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 Supreme Court decision that affirmed much of Roe v. Wade.

The court ruled that the law breaches Casey’s standard that restrictions cannot put an “undue burden” on the ability to get an abortion before the point of viability.

“Because [Idaho’s law] places an arbitrary time limit on when women can obtain abortions, the statute is unconstitutional,” Judge Harry Pregerson wrote in an opinion for a three-judge panel. Two were appointees of Democratic presidents and one of a Republican president.

Supporters of 20-week bans argue the time limit is not arbitrary because it is the time they say a fetus begins to feel pain.

Updated at 1:52 p.m.