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Supreme Court Won't Hear Arizona Abortion Ban Appeal

The United States Supreme Court is refusing to hear a case involving Arizona’s ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The high court declined to reconsider a lower court ruling that the law violates a woman’s constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy before a fetus is able to survive, outside the womb.

Viability is generally considered to start at 24 weeks. A normal pregnancy runs about 40 weeks.

In April 2012 Gov. Jan Brewer singed the ban, which was sponsored in the state legislature by Republican Sen. Kimberly Yee.

The measure was struck down by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year. That court said the ban violates a long list of Supreme Court rulings, starting with the landmark Roe v. Wade decision from 1973.

Reacting to Monday’s court action, Yee says the Supreme Court has "put the health and safety of women and preborn children at risk." She maintains there is evidence that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks, which she says makes an abortion inhumane.

Yee says it is a fundamental responsibility of government to protect life and, it has fallen short of fulfilling that duty.

Cathi Herrod heads the Center for Arizona Policy, a group that helped write the law.  She says the court’s hand will be forced because 10 states have similar laws on the books.

"So we anticipate at some point the United State Supreme Court will consider the humanity of pre-born children, and the risk of abortion to their mothers," Herrod said.

State Rep. Eric Meyer, who is a physician, opposed the ban.

"The news from the Supreme Court today is good for women’s health. We should trust women to make their own medical choices. Laws like the 20-week abortion ban would force women and families into terrible situations and would put the government in between women and their doctors," Meyer said.

Arizona state Rep. John Kavanaugh believes the Supreme Court will have to deal with the abortion issue.

"This is a controversy that will continue to cause cases at the appellate level and sometimes they’ll contradict. And then you have no national policy, so I think they’re going to have to," Kavanaugh said.

He said the issue may have to wait until some of the current justices on the Supreme Court are replaced and a new court is willing to revisit the abortion issue.

But Janet Crepps, a lawyer for the Center for Reproductive Rights, doesn't believe that will happen.

"The Supreme Court has said it and resaid it and said it again that the state cannot prohibit women from getting an abortion prior to viability," she said.

Other states with 20-week bans include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Updated 1/13/2014 at 12:53 p.m.