(AP) PHOENIX – A federal appeals court on Wednesday temporarily prohibited Arizona from enforcing its new ban on most abortions starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its order two days after a trial judge ruled that the ban could take effect Thursday as scheduled.
The appellate court put the ban on hold until a pending appeal is decided, which will take at least several months. It said in a brief order that it will hold a hearing as soon as possible this fall after receiving legal briefs due in September and October.
Abortion-rights groups appealed U.S. District Judge James Teilborg’s ruling that the ban is constitutional, partly because of concerns about health of women and possible pain for fetuses.
The case centers on whether the ban violates U.S. Supreme Court rulings that states cannot prohibit abortion before a fetus is able to survive outside the womb. That’s generally considered to be about 24 weeks. Normal pregnancies run about 40 weeks.
Arizona currently bans abortions at viability.
Attorneys on both sides of the issue said courts haven’t blocked 20-week bans before. Arizona is among 10 states to enact types of 20-week bans.
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