A judge has ordered state child welfare officials to take a 14-year-old girl who is 23 weeks pregnant out of the state for an abortion banned in Arizona.

The abortion order was issued this month by Judge William Sargeant of Maricopa County Superior Court.

Sargeant told the Tribune, a newspaper serving suburban Phoenix, that he wouldn't confirm the abortion order or discuss the girl's case.

The abortion must be performed outside Arizona because a new state law bans abortions in most cases after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Jane Hull (R), Francie Noyes, said taking the teenager out of state for the abortion is legal.

"The court is acting in the role of the parents," Noyes told the Arizona Republic. "The people that are working in the girl's best interests believe this is the best interests. The court agreed and did issue the order."

The girl, who has been in the state child welfare system since she was 5, became a ward of the court after repeatedly running away from foster parents and group homes, the Republic said.

Abortion opponents were incensed, contending that the court-ordered action would violate state law barring the use of state money for abortions unless needed to save the mother's life.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Economic Security, which oversees foster care, said federal law permits abortion in rape cases and that statutory rape laws say any sexual activity involving a 14-year-old can be considered rape.

Sally Ordini, the DES spokeswoman, declined to comment further on the case but said medical and transportation costs in such a case would be covered by federal Medicaid funds.