Abortion Law Collision Set For 2013

It was a fairly predictable development, but dramatic nonetheless: a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel has issued an injunction against implementation of Arizona’s precedent-challenging “fetal pain” abortion ban, which was scheduled to take effect today. In the autumn, the 9th circuit will hear an appeal to the ruling issued earlier this week by district court judge James Teilborg upholding the law, which had the most draconian time restriction and also the fewest exceptions of any of the recent state-passed bans on second-trimester abortions.

Regardless of what happens in the 9th Circuit, it’s now reasonably clear that Arizona’s law will provide the long-awaited–and for many abortion rights advocates, long-feared–Supreme Court review of these restrictive new laws, perhaps as early as 2013. Then we’ll see if the Court decides to uphold the framework of Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, or instead widens the breach in the constitutional right to choose opened up by Justice Kennedy in the 2007 Gonzales v. Carhart decision upholding a federal ban on so-called “partial-birth” abortions. It’s even possible, of course, that final action could come after the winner of the November elections has had a chance to make a fateful appointment to a closely divided Court.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.