Hearing over Arizona's abortion ban gets under way

| Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, 2:36 p.m.

SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal appeals court has begun in San Francisco grappling with the constitutionality of Arizona's abortion law, which prohibits abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy.

Arizona's prohibition is considered the most restrictive abortion law in the country. Three Arizona obstetrician-gynecologists are challenging the law in federal court.

On Monday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals began considering the issue Monday after a lower court judge upheld the law.

Supporters justify the ban by arguing that fetuses can feel pain as early as 20 weeks of pregnancy and that women face more health risks from later abortions. Critics dispute both contentions.

Nine other states also have 20-week bans, but the Arizona ban is earliest because it uses a different starting point to calculate a fetus' age.

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