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First 'Fetal Pain' Abortion Ban Struck Down by Court

Ten states have such restrictions. Three have been challenged; Idaho's is the first to fall.

A U.S. district judge has overturned Idaho's so-called "fetal pain" law, a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Citing Roe v. Wade, Judge B. Lynn Winmill wrote that "the state may not rely on its interest in the potential life of the fetus to place a substantial obstacle to abortion before viability in women's paths."

The so-called "fetal-pain" law attempts to stop abortions after 20 weeks, the point at which a fetus reportedly begins to feel pain. Lawyers for plaintiff Jennie Linn McCormack argued that the law unjustly punishes women.

Attorney Richard Hearn told the Huffington Post that "Winmill's ruling makes it clear that any attempts by states to ban abortions before a fetus can survive outside the womb are unconstitutional."

However, of the 10 states with existing fetal-pain laws on the books, only three have faced legal challenges. Nebraska was the first state to adopt a "fetal-pain" law in 2009, and Idaho was one of seven states to enact bans on abortions after 20 weeks. Arkansas approved a ban on abortions after 12 weeks earlier this month, becoming one of the most restrictive bans in the nation.

Politco reports that many experts say fetal-pain laws could be the next abortion-debate battlefield and "could reach the Supreme Court."

CT first noted the debate on when the unborn feel pain in 2005, and noted a controversial British study claiming a fetus cannot feel pain until 24 weeks in 2010. CT also labeled the fetal-pain debate one of the "pro-life efforts to watch in 2011," and reported the surge of anti-abortion legislation later that year.

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