Gov. Ducey Signs Far-Reaching Anti-Abortion Bill in Huge Blow to Women

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

By Lorraine Longhi

April 27, 2021

Lawmakers, healthcare providers, and community members have pushed back against the bill for weeks.

Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday signed a controversial bill that will make it a felony to perform abortions based on genetic abnormalities—meaning potential jail time for providers who perform the abortions and fines for those who don’t report them.

Senate Bill 1457, sponsored by Republican Sen. Nancy Barto of Phoenix, doesn’t include abortions involving a “lethal fetal condition” and excludes women undergoing the abortion from criminal prosecution. But it will set the penalty for abortion providers at a Class 6 felony, which can carry a minimum sentence of six months in prison.

Medical professionals who fail to report qualifying abortions can face up to $10,000 in fines. The new law also bestows “rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons” to an unborn child “at every stage of development.”

Additionally, the law requires that the remains of aborted fetuses be cremated and bans the delivery of abortion pills by mail.

Barto has said the bill is intended to protect Arizona’s most vulnerable, in particular, fetuses that are diagnosed with genetic abnormalities like Down syndrome.

“I’ve been deeply saddened to see pre-born children with genetic abnormalities, especially Down syndrome, be regularly discriminated against and singled out for abortion based solely on thieir disability,” Barto said in a hearing on the bill last month. 

The bill was narrowly defeated in the legislature earlier this month after Sen. Tyler Pace, R-Mesa, voted against the bill, and against his own party lines. The bill was later revived after the suspension of multiple rules by the legislature’s Republican majority.

The new law will go into effect 90 days after the close of the current Arizona legislative session.

“It’s Just Painful”

Lawmakers, healthcare professionals and community members have pushed back against the bill for weeks, saying it criminalizes the relationship between doctors and patients.

Among them has been freshman lawmaker Rep. Melody Hernandez, D-Tempe, who spoke on the floor of the Arizona House of Representatives about her own abortion, in opposition to the bill and in an effort to normalize reproductive health.

After the signing of the bill, Hernandez called the experience of publicly sharing her personal experience with abortion “painful.”

“I had been carrying it on my shoulders for so long. I had been feeling shame for so long,” Hernandez told The Copper Courier. “It just feels like we let people down. It’s just painful.”

On Tuesday, Ducey said he signed the legislation to prioritize “life in our preborn children” and to protect those with genetic abnormalities. The Republican governor has never vetoed an abortion measure, according to The Arizona Republic.

“Every life holds immeasurable value—regardless of genetic makeup,” Ducey wrote in a statement.

But Hernandez said that Arizonans were being used as pawns by a small, far-right contingent of the Republican party whose agenda did not match the values of the majority of Arizonans.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona said in a statement following the signing that it was deeply disappointed and that Ducey’s decision went against the will of thousands of Arizonans.

“This legislation is unconstitutional and comes with serious consequences for people seeking abortions and health professionals who provide necessary medical care,” Darrell Hill, policy director for ACLU Arizona, said in a statement. 

“Limiting access to reproductive healthcare is just going to lead to more women suffering and more women dying,” Hernandez said. “That’s a lot of what I’m feeling right now, is just fear for the people around me.”


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