Sep 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Federal judge temporarily blocks key part of Arizona abortion law

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey at a Trump rally on October 19, 2020 in Prescott, Arizona.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey speaks addressing a 2020 Trump rally in Prescott, Arizona. Photo: Caitlin O'Hara/Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked a key aspect of a new Arizona abortion law hours before it was due to take effect.

Why it matters: The legislation would have allowed felony charges to be laid against doctors who knowingly terminated pregnancies solely due to genetic issues, such as Down syndrome, and anyone who helped fund such abortions.

Details: U.S. District Judge Douglas Rayes raised concerns in an order granting a partial preliminary injunction against the law, signed by Gov. Doug Ducey this year, that the definitions regarding genetic issues were too vague.

  • The judge questioned how a doctor could "know" what's going through a patient's mind in such instances.
  • "This problem is exacerbated by the reality that 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" issue, Rayes wrote.

Yes, but: Rayes declined to grant a preliminary injunction for another aspect of the legislation requiring fetuses, embryos and fertilized eggs to be referred to as "people" from the point of conception. 

What they're saying: Emily Nestler, a senior counsel for the ACLU, which filed a lawsuit challenging the legislation on behalf of the Arizona Medical Association and a local doctor, expressed relief in a statement that the "'reason ban' will be blocked while this case continues."

  • "People should not be interrogated about their reason for seeking an abortion," she added. "There are no right or wrong reasons."

The other side: Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, which sponsored the legislation, said in a statement that Tuesday's ruling was "only the first review by the federal courts."

  • "We remain confident the law will be upheld and ruled enforceable in its entirety," Herrod added.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Nestler and Herrod.

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