(SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE) A federal appeals court that included an ardent opponent of abortion struck down Arizona’s ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy Tuesday, citing 40 years of Supreme Court precedents that allow a woman to terminate her pregnancy if the fetus is not yet viable.

The ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco was the first by an appellate court to examine one of the proliferating attempts by antiabortion lawmakers to ban the procedure after the early stages of pregnancy.

Supporters of such laws say a fetus can feel pain after 20 weeks, an assertion that mainstream U.S. medical groups reject. The appeals court said the issue was legally irrelevant because the Supreme Court has made it clear that the defining point is the ability of a fetus to survive outside the womb, which does not occur until at least the 23rd or 24th week of pregnancy.

 

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