Arizona’s stringent abortion law, which includes a ban on all abortions beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy, was upheld by a federal judge yesterday, setting up a potential showdown at the Supreme Court that could further chip away at Roe v. Wade. The Arizona law will now take effect tomorrow, as scheduled.

U.S. District Judge James Teilborg said the statute might prompt a few pregnant women who are considering abortion to make the decision earlier. But he said the law was constitutional because it didn’t prohibit women from deciding to end their pregnancies.

The judge also wrote that the state provided “substantial and well-documented” evidence that an unborn child has the capacity to feel pain during an abortion by at least 20 weeks.

Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed the measure into law in April, making Arizona one of 10 states with 20-week bans.

Arizona’s ban, set to take effect Thursday, prohibits abortion starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy except in medical emergencies. The state currently bans abortion starting at viability, which is the ability to survive outside the womb — generally considered to be about 24 weeks. A normal pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks.

Ten states have 20-week abortion bans, so that’s not an innovation in the law per se. But the acceptance by Judge Teilborg of the “fetal pain” argument further moves down the road a key argument put forward by the anti-choice movement. The ruling in South Dakota does even more damage. There, the full 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld South Dakota’s abortion law, which requires doctors to inform patients that abortions correlate with increased risk of suicide. So mandates are right out in health care, unless you want to force a doctor to say that a legal medical procedure will cause you to kill yourself. Also, free speech, except for doctors. Got it.

Incidentally, the link between abortion and suicide is unproven, as a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit ruled earlier. This full panel overturned them, without relying on any proof of the link:

The appeals court ruled on Tuesday that conclusive proof of a causation was not required and the suicide advisory was not misleading and was relevant to the patient’s decision.

Wow. Just call that the “right to lie” bill.

Conservative anti-choice activists have skillfully used state legislatures to advance their ideological pursuits, and now they appear to be winning in the courts as well.