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Federal appeals panel blocks restrictive Arizona abortion law

The Arizona abortion law barring doctors from terminating pregnancies after 20 weeks was to take effect Thursday. The judges, from the Ninth US Circuit, granted an emergency injunction blocking the law.

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Activists hold a "Stand Up for Women's Health" rally in supporting preventive health care and family planning services, including abortion, in Washington in this 2011 file photo. A federal appeals court on Wednesday temporarily blocked enforcement of a tough new Arizona abortion law that bars doctors from routinely terminating a pregnancy after 20 weeks.

Joshua Roberts/Reuters

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A federal appeals court on Wednesday temporarily blocked enforcement of a tough new Arizona abortion law that bars doctors from routinely terminating a pregnancy after 20 weeks.

The emergency injunction granted by the three-judge panel of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals prevents the law from taking full effect as scheduled on Thursday. 

The ruling was not a decision on the merits of the law itself, but was still hailed by activists who had appealed to the Ninth Circuit after a lower court judge upheld the measure this week.

“We are relieved that the court blocked this dangerous ban and that women in Arizona will continue to be able to get safe, appropriate medical care,” Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement.  

The statute, signed on April 12 and known as SB 2036, reduces by three to four weeks the amount of time a woman would have to decide on whether to end her pregnancy or carry the child to term. It allows doctors to perform an abortion after 20 weeks, but only in cases of “medical emergency.”

Arizona is among 10 states that have enacted laws seeking to regulate the provision of abortions during the time in a pregnancy when the fetus is unable to survive on its own outside the womb.

Doctors consider the point of fetal viability to arrive 23 or 24 weeks into a pregnancy. 

A group of physicians in Arizona asked a federal judge to block the law and rule that it violates a woman’s right to decide whether to have an abortion. 

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