Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Key Section of Arizona Abortion Law

By Tammy Hung
Tammy Hung
Tammy Hung
September 29, 2021 Updated: September 29, 2021

Federal Judge Douglas L. Rayes threw out a key provision of Arizona’s abortion ban on Tuesday that would have allowed prosecutors to bring charges against health providers for terminating pregnancies due to a diagnosis of genetic abnormality, except in a medical emergency.

Rayes also granted a partial preliminary injunction against a provision that would have let prosecutors bring charges against anyone who was fundraising or paying for the abortion.

“The Reason Regulations do not ban women from terminating pre-viability pregnancies because of a fetal genetic abnormality; they prohibit providers from performing such abortions if they know the patient’s motive,” Rayes wrote in the court order (pdf).

Rayes concluded that the new law will bring harm to the doctor–patient relationship if a woman wishes to terminate her pregnancy due to a fetal genetic abnormality, but conceals this information from her doctor instead.

Rayes issued the ruling eight hours before the new abortion laws were to come into effect.

The judge declined to grant an injunction against a section of the law that requires fetuses to be referred to as “people” from the point of conception.

The Arizona Medical Association, the Arizona National Organization of Women, and two doctors were among those who filed the legal challenge.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed the new abortion bill (pdf) in April 2021 to protect unborn children from abortions performed strictly on the basis of genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome.

The new law also prohibits public colleges and universities from performing an abortion, forbids mail delivery of abortion-inducing medication, and allows the father or maternal grandparents of an unborn child who was aborted due to a genetic disorder to sue on behalf of an unborn child.

The bill requires a doctor or abortionist to complete an affidavit stating that he or she isn’t performing an abortion because of the child’s genetic abnormality. It also requires the abortionist to inform the mother that it’s unlawful to perform an abortion due to the child’s race, sex, or genetic abnormality, and report any violations of the statute.

Ducey said in April that the legislation will “prioritize life in our preborn children and protect those with genetic abnormalities.”

Arizona House Democrats, however, said on Twitter that the legislation was a “forced-birth, personhood bill that targets doctors & women who miscarry.”

Tammy Hung