by Jeremy Leaming
Federal and state judges are not immune to falling for dubious studies passed off as science when ruling against gay couples in marriage or adoption cases. Wobbly science backing up outlandish state restrictions on abortions is just as troubling, if not as common.
Salon’s Irin Carmon highlights a recent ruling by U.S. District Judge James Teilborg, appointed to the bench by President Clinton, to uphold an Arizona law that outlaws abortions before viability. It’s one of the few state laws to ban pre-viability abortions and Teilborg’s opinion runs counter to the U.S. Supreme Court precedent that forbids states from banning abortions before viability.
But beyond Teilborg’s failure to grasp precedent, Carmon notes his reliance on the “suspect science of ‘fetal pain,’ a first in the federal courts ….”
The ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the constitutionality of the Arizona law, but as Carmon notes did not delve into the suspect science because of the clear precedent on laws banning pre-viability abortions.
The judge, however, claimed that there is “substantial and well-documented evidence that an unborn child has capacity to feel pain during an abortion at least 20 weeks gestational age.”
Carmon notes that leading medical organizations, such as the Journal of American Medical Association and the Royal College of Obstetricians have found otherwise.
That ruling, which can be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, follows a recent one from a federal appeals court upholding a South Dakota law that orders physicians to tell women seeking an abortion that abortions cause an increased risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit claimed there is “extensive evidence” of such risks.