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Court Considers Arizona’s 20-week Abortion Ban

The U.S. Supreme Court building
(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

PHOENIX (AP) – Federal appeals judges in San Francisco will hear arguments today on Arizona’s ban on abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy.

A federal judge had refused to block the ban in June, ruling that it doesn’t impose a substantial obstacle to being able to have abortions because women still have time to make decisions.

U.S. District Judge James Teilborg said the ban is only a regulation, not a flat prohibition. But opponents contend it’s unconstitutional because some women couldn’t have abortions before viability.

Nine other states also have 20-week bans, but the Arizona ban is the earliest because it uses a different starting point to calculate a fetus’ age.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court says a South Carolina sheriff’s office can be held liable for attorneys’ fees for stopping abortion protesters in South Carolina who wanted to hold up signs showing aborted fetuses.

Justices on Monday reversed a decision saying the Greenwood County sheriff’s office was not required to pay attorney’s fees in a lawsuit brought by Steven Lefemine and Columbia Christians for Life. The group was told by officers they couldn’t protest with their signs in November 2005. A federal judge agreed that the sheriff was wrong, but did not award damages or lawyer’s fees.

The justices threw out that decision without hearing arguments, saying the legal decision that officers could not stop the protesters “supported the award of attorney’s fees.” The case now goes back to the lower courts.

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Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Material may not be redistributed.

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