New Arizona Abortion Ban Blocked Hours Before Taking Effect

Judge blocks ban on abortions sought because of a fetal condition or diagnosis

Affiliate: ACLU of Arizona
September 28, 2021 9:15 pm

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PHOENIX — A federal district court judge granted a request by Arizona physicians and advocates today to temporarily block part of a new Arizona law that was scheduled to take effect tomorrow, Sept. 29. The provision that was blocked would ban abortions sought due to the presence or presumed presence of a fetal condition.

In his order, Judge Douglas L. Rayes wrote, “the decision to terminate a pregnancy is a complex one, and often is motivated by a variety of considerations, some of which are inextricably intertwined with the detection of a fetal genetic abnormality… If a woman wishes to terminate her pre-viability pregnancy because of a fetal genetic abnormality, [this law] require[s] her to conceal this information from or lie to her doctor, neither of which fosters trust or encourages open dialogue.”

The court denied plaintiffs’ request to block another part of the law that classifies fetuses, embryos, and fertilized eggs as “people” starting at the point of conception. The court did not rule out the possibility that this provision could ultimately be deemed unlawful, particularly if or when it is used to violate Arizonans’ constitutional rights.

“This ruling is a victory for Arizonans and their ability to communicate with their physicians and access abortion care if they need it. Politicians shouldn’t have the power to approve or reject our personal medical decisions and charge physicians with felonies for serving their patients,” said Ruth Harlow, senior staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “We’ll do everything in our power to continue fighting this cruel policy and ensure no one is forced to carry a pregnancy against their will regardless of where they live.”

“People should not be interrogated about their reason for seeking an abortion. There are no right or wrong reasons,” said Emily Nestler, Senior Counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We’re incredibly relieved that this ‘reason ban’ will be blocked while this case continues. This is just one of the more than 90 abortion restrictions passed at the state level this year, including Texas’ abortion ban, which is currently wreaking havoc. Abortion access in the U.S. is in very real peril. We will keep fighting this ban and the personhood requirement until they are struck down for good.”

“We are relieved that the court has enjoined the state’s outrageous attempt to extend the Americans with Disabilities Act in utero, and has temporarily prevented this dangerous law from restricting access to reproductive health care, criminalizing doctors and interfering with personal medical decisions between doctors and patients,” said Civia Tamarkin, president of National Council of Jewish Women Arizona, a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit. “But the failure to enjoin the personhood provision will create chaos once that law goes into effect and is subject to broad interpretation and application under every Arizona statute.”

“For a moment, women in Arizona can take a tiny breath as justice and constitutional rights have prevailed on the reason ban,” said Laura Terech, State Coordinator for Arizona NOW. “But the battle is far from over and we need every hand and every heart on the front lines with us so long as our right to bodily autonomy is challenged anywhere.”  

So far this year, states have signed more than 90 abortion restrictions into law, making it the worst year for abortion access on record. Arizona has existing abortion restrictions that make it harder for people to access abortion, including: a mandatory 24-hour waiting period for people seeking abortion; a ban on the use of telemedicine for medication abortion services; and a law banning advanced practice clinicians like nurse practitioners from providing abortion care.   

On Dec. 1, 2021, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Center’s case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organizationa direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. In that case, Mississippi has asked the court to allow states to ban abortion before viability. If that happens, Arizona and nearly half the states in the country are poised to ban abortion entirely.

The case was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and ACLU of Arizona on behalf of two Arizona physicians, the Arizona Medical Association, National Council of Jewish Women Arizona, and the Arizona National Organization of Women.

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