The Supreme Court on Monday denied the state of Arizona's request to hear an abortion case. The immediate impact is that Arizona won't be able to enforce the law, which restricts how doctors can administer abortion pills.
In June, the 9th Circuit ruled in a preliminary fashion that “Arizona introduced no evidence that the law advanced in any way Arizona’s interest in women’s health,” and that the law violated the Supreme Court’s “undue burden” standard for how far a state can restrict abortion. The case will now go back to the lower courts.
“By allowing to stand the Ninth Circuit’s strong decision blocking this underhanded law, the U.S. Supreme Court has ensured Arizona women will continue to have the same critical and constitutionally protected health care tomorrow that they have today,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, who along with Planned Parenthood challenged the law in court.
The Supreme Court hasn't waded into the divisive issue of abortion since 2007. This term is already poised to be politically controversial, with a major challenge to the Affordable Care Act and a potential gutting of the Fair Housing Act.
The case, Humble v. Planned Parenthood of Arizona, concerns a law that has been copied throughout the country. It requires doctors to use outdated protocols for pills that induce abortion. The effect is to narrow the window doctors can administer the drugs, raise the dosage, and make a safe procedure slightly riskier, which is why pro-choice advocates say such laws amount to banning the option altogether.
The court has rejected similar petitions before, including one from Oklahoma in November 2013 and a separate Arizona law a few months later. It has, however, acted on emergency petitions from abortion providers in Texas without fully ruling on their merits. Given the cascade of anti-abortion laws being passed in the states, with more to come, it seems inevitable that the court will have to weigh in sooner or later.