State Watch

Federal judge blocks part of Arizona abortion ban hours before it takes effect

Greg Nash

A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked a provision of Arizona’s new abortion ban hours before it was set to take effect, which would have prohibited abortions solely due to a diagnosis of a genetic abnormality or other fetal condition. 

In the order granting a partial preliminary injunction against the law, Judge Douglas L. Rayes for the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona wrote that because doctors are required to inform patients of this provision, those who wish “to terminate her pre-viability pregnancy because of a fetal genetic abnormality” may inevitably “conceal this information from or lie to her doctor, neither of which fosters trust or encourages open dialogue.”  

Rayes added that “Arizona’s more abstract concern with how the public might perceive the medical profession does not outweigh the concrete damage” that the provision “would do to the doctor-patient relationship.” 

However, the judge declined to grant a preliminary injunction for another portion of the law that requires fetuses, embryos and fertilized eggs to be referred to as “people” from the point of conception. 

Rayes, though, noted that the second provision could also eventually be deemed unlawful if a court determines that it either has been or could be used to violate an individual’s constitutional rights. 

The legal challenge to the Arizona bill signed into law earlier this year by GOP Gov. Doug Ducey was filed by the ACLU of Arizona on behalf of the Arizona Medical Association and a local doctor, as well as several other reproductive rights groups. The Center for Reproductive Rights is the lead counsel in the case. 

Emily Nestler, the center’s senior counsel, said in a statement following the judge’s order, “We’re incredibly relieved that this ‘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.” 

Ruth Harlow, senior staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement that the 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,” Harlow added. 

Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, which supported the measure, said in a statement that the group’s leaders “remain confident the law will be upheld and ruled enforceable in its entirety,” according to NPR member station Arizona Public Media

“Our job is to defend the law and we will continue to do so,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) said in a statement to The Hill.

“Whether it’s pushing back against unconstitutional mandates or defending our laws against pro-abortion activists, we will continue to lead the charge and stand up for Arizonans,” he added.

— Updated on Sept. 29 at 2:09 p.m.

Tags abortion ban ACLU American Civil Liberties Union Arizona Center for Reproductive Rights Doug Ducey Fetus NPR

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