(CN) – The 9th Circuit on Wednesday blocked an Arizona law criminalizing abortions at 20 weeks or later from taking effect pending an appeal by doctors challenging the ban.
A three-judge panel granted the physicians’ emergency motion for an injunction after a federal judge upheld the challenged provision earlier this week.
House Bill 2036, signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer in April, bans abortions at or after 20 weeks, except in cases of medical emergencies.
Doctors challenging the restriction say the 20-week abortion ban unconstitutionally strips women of the choice to abort before a fetus is viable. They argue that women typically undergo prenatal testing at 18 to 20 weeks, giving them little to no time to make the difficult decision of whether to seek an abortion should the results indicate a serious medical risk.
The 9th Circuit’s order halts the ban from taking effect on Thursday, as scheduled, pending the doctors’ appeal.
The Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the federal lawsuit in Phoenix on the physicians’ behalf, said they were relieved by Wednesday’s decision to block “the most extreme abortion ban in the country.”
“We are relieved … that women in Arizona will continue to be able to get safe, appropriate medical care,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Abortion is a serious, personal decision that should be made by a woman, her family and her doctor — not by politicians.”
Violation of the ban is a Class 1 misdemeanor under H.B. 2036, punishable by up to six months in prison. It can also result in the suspension or revocation of a physician’s license.
The 9th Circuit expedited the appeal, setting a deadline of Oct. 17 for all briefs.