Physicians, Pro-Choice Advocates Sue Over Laws Criminalizing Some Abortions in Arizona

By Lorraine Longhi

August 19, 2021

“This bill jeopardizes the lives of pregnant people, potentially criminalizing them, and prohibits doctors from providing evidence based medical care.” 

Arizona doctors and abortion rights advocates are suing to block what they’re calling “drastic” and unlawful abortion proposals that were passed by Republican lawmakers earlier this year.

In April, Gov. Doug Ducey signed Senate Bill 1457, 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.

On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Arizona, and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit in US District Court challenging the new law. The groups are representing Arizona physicians Dr. Paul Isaacson and Dr. Eric Reuss, as well as the Arizona National Organization for Women (NOW), the Arizona National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), and the Arizona Medical Association.

Looking for the latest Arizona news? Sign up for our FREE daily newsletter.

Republican state Sen. Nancy Barto, the sponsor of SB 1457, said it was intended to protect Arizona’s most vulnerable, in particular, fetuses that are diagnosed with genetic abnormalities like Down syndrome. But other lawmakers, medical professionals, and reproductive rights groups have said it would criminalize the relationship between doctors and patients.

“This bill is about restricting abortion care and banning abortion, and it’s not about protecting those with disabilities as the sponsor would lead us to believe,” Marilyn Rodriguez of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona told the Associated Press earlier this year. She called it “a cruel attempt to yet again limit abortion, this time by targeting families who seek this option after learning their fetus has developed a disability.”

SB 1457 would not prosecute women for having an abortion, but it would penalize providers with a Class 6 felony, which can carry a minimum sentence of six months in prison.

Medical professionals who fail to report qualifying abortions can also 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.”

The lawsuit filed Tuesday said SB 1457 would “wreak havoc on reproductive healthcare across Arizona, with devastating effects for pregnant patients and medical providers throughout the state.”

The lawsuit is also challenging a personhood requirement in the law that would classify fetuses, embryos, and fertilized eggs as people starting at the point of conception, a requirement that would criminalize important medical care for pregnant people, the ACLU said Tuesday.

READ MORE: Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey Among 12 GOP Governors Asking Supreme Court to Overturn Roe v. Wade

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are asking that the abortion restrictions be blocked before they take effect on Sept. 29.

“From the moment this bill was proposed, NCJW Arizona has vigorously fought to defeat it because it violates fundamental human, civil and constitutional rights,” said Civia Tamarkin, president of the Arizona NCJW.  “This bill jeopardizes the lives of pregnant people, potentially criminalizing them, and prohibits doctors from providing evidence based medical care.” 

The lawsuit comes on the heels of an increased push across the country by Republican lawmakers to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that protects a woman’s right to have an abortion without excessive government interference, as the US Supreme Court now holds a 6-3 conservative majority. 

In Arizona, Ducey has never vetoed an abortion measure, according to The Arizona Republic. Earlier this month, he was among 12 Republican governors who called on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

As part of an upcoming case that will decide whether states should have the right to decide whether abortion should be legal, the governors signed onto a brief describing Roe v. Wade and another landmark Supreme Court abortion decision, Planned Parenthood of Southeast Pennsylvania v. Casey, as “misadventures.”

“The Court should take this opportunity to correct the mistakes in its abortion jurisprudence and recognize that the text and original understanding of the Fourteenth Amendment have nothing to do with abortion,” the governors argued.

Laura Terech, a state coordinator for Arizona NOW, said in a press release Tuesday that anti-abortion lawmakers in Arizona should instead be focusing on the rising number of COVID cases and high maternal mortality rate in the state.

“But instead, they are spending their time taking away our reproductive rights,” she said. “The people of Arizona deserve better.”




Local News

Related Stories
Share This