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Arizona cannot enforce its ban on abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancies, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this morning.
The justice rejected a bid by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery to review an appellate court ruling concluding the 2012 law is likely unconstitutional. The justices gave no reason for their decision in their brief order.
The Arizona law made it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion on a woman who is beyond the 19th week of pregnancy. The only exceptions are when necessary to prevent a woman’s death or “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”
Last year, however, the 9th Circuit said the law is not enforceable. The judges said Supreme Court precedents have made it clear that women have an absolute right to terminate a pregnancy at any time prior to viability, something that does not occur until around the 23rd or 24th week.
Montgomery, however, contended Arizona lawmakers have a legitimate interest in stepping in.
He cited testimony — disputed by some — that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks. Montgomery also said the procedure has an increased risk to the mother after that point.
Appellate Judge Marsh Berzon, writing for the 9th Circuit, said all that is legally irrelevant.
"A woman has a constitutional right to choose to terminate her pregnancy before the fetus is viable," she wrote. "A prohibition on the exercise of that right is per se unconstitutional."
In a concurring opinion, Judge Andrew Kleinfeld brushed aside the measure’s stated interest in protecting a woman’s health as a reason to keep her from getting an abortion at or after 20 weeks.
"People are free to do many things to their health, such as surgery to improve their quality of life but unnecessary to preserve life," Kleinfeld wrote. "There appears to be no authority for making an exception to this general liberty regarding one’s own health for abortion."
The ruling was cheered by Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represented several Arizona doctors who had challenged the law. She said the high court, by its action, affirmed the 9th Circuit’s “sound decision that Arizona’s abortion ban is clearly unconstitutional under long-standing precedent.”
She also noted that the ruling likely had broader implications, as lawmakers in several other states have approved similar measures.
"Women should not be forced to run to court, year after year, in state after state, to protect their constitutional rights and access to critical health care," Northup said in a prepared statement.
(Image: Activist Yvonne Fly Onakeme Etaghene)
Each year, health disparities run rampant in communities of color, policies are created to tell women and girls that the choices we make for our reproductive health and lives (from childbirth to abortion and even adoption) are best left up to policymakers and not between us and our healthcare provider, and young people are given inaccurate information about sexual and reproductive health and places them at a disadvantage in being able to take care of themselves.
We’ve been doing a lot of amazing activism around sexual and reproductive freedom. Let’s amplify that work in 2014 and get even more done for sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice for women and girls, and our families.
Activism isn’t regulated to just attending rallies and interrupting politicians. Activism occurs in many ways. Teachers, social workers, healthcare providers, nonprofit program directors, students, and parents and more advocate daily for the people they care about. Also, activism doesn’t always occur in the forefront. There are many of us who advocate for others behind the scenes. From blogging, to working one on one with a client in an agency setting, to structuring a program that speaks to the community your nonprofit works for, there are many ways to raise your voice.
How will you raise your voice for reproductive justice, in 2014? Here are a few ideas to get started:
Michigan Democratic Leader, Gretchen Whitmer. The board of medicine just approved a Right to Life of Michigan petition banning abortion insurance coverage. If approved by the Republican majority legislature (and not allowed to go to the voters), it would require patients to purchase an additional rider to cover abortion, even in cases of rape and incest.
Nearly half of the pregnancies in the United States are unintended, and about 40% of those are terminated. The cost of a first trimester abortion ranges anywhere from $300 to $950. Nearly 60% of women who experience a delay in accessing safe, legal abortion have cited the time it took to raise the money and make arrangements. Those delays increase the cost of abortion, as well as the risk of complications.
Imagine being denied emergency contraception after a sexual assault; to not even be informed about the steps you can take to prevent an unwanted pregnancy; and to later find yourself pregnant as a result of the rape.
For thousands of Native American women this is reality.
That is why the ACLU and NACB have filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with Indian Health Services (IHS) seeking information on policies governing access to over-the-counter emergency contraception (sometimes known as “Plan B”) at IHS facilities and demanding to know what steps the government is taking to solve this problem.
Did you know 34.1 percent or more then 1 in 3 Native American women will be raped in their lifetime? Native American women experience sexual assault at a higher rate than all other U.S. populations, which is one reason why it is essential that they have access to Plan B.
According to FDA guidelines, Plan B is available to women 17 and older OTC. If used within 120 hours, EC can safely prevent pregnancy after contraceptive failure, unprotected sex, or sexual assault. But EC is most effective the sooner it is taken, with effectiveness decreasing every 12 hours.
Although Plan B has been available without a prescription to adult women since 2006, 90 percent of Indian Health Service (IHS) facilities do not provide Plan B OTC to the Native American women they serve. Given the rural locations of many reservation communities, if EC is unavailable at the IHS facility the next closest commercial pharmacy may be hundreds of miles away and transportation costs may be insurmountable, making timely access to EC difficult, if not impossible for too many women.
Read the rest here.