A federal judge blocked part of a new pro-life Arizona law Tuesday that protects unborn babies with genetic conditions like Down syndrome from discriminatory abortions.
Though disappointed, pro-life leaders in the state expressed thankfulness that U.S. District Judge Douglas Rayes allowed other life-saving parts of the law to go into effect as scheduled on Wednesday, the Arizona Republic reports.
“Today’s ruling is only the first review by the federal courts,” said Center for Arizona Policy president Cathi Herrod, Esq. “We remain confident the law will be upheld and ruled enforceable in its entirety. It’s a shame the abortion industry is standing in the way of protecting the most vulnerable from discrimination and life itself.”
Herrod said other provisions in the law, which passed in April, are now in effect, including a requirement that “all Arizona laws will be interpreted to value all human life, at any stage of life.”
The law also bans dangerous mail-order abortions and requires abortion facilities to provide a dignified burial or cremation for aborted babies. Additionally, it prohibits public, taxpayer-funded universities from providing or referring for elective abortions.
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The part of the law that Rayes blocked makes it a crime to abort an unborn baby because of a genetic disorder. Exceptions are allowed if the mother’s life is at risk. It expands on an older Arizona law that prohibits discriminatory abortions because of an unborn baby’s race or sex.
The Center for Reproductive Rights expressed relief at the judge’s ruling, according to TAG 24. The pro-abortion group is one of several challenging the law in court.
“People should not be interrogated about their reason for seeking an abortion,” said Emily Nestler, senior counsel for the group. “There are no right or wrong reasons.”
Other groups involved in the lawsuit include the American Civil Liberties Union, National Organization for Women, National Council of Jewish Women and Arizona Medical Association. They claim the law is vague and unconstitutional.
Here’s more from the Arizona Republic:
Rayes did not agree the law was a ban but found it was vague and created obstacles to obtaining an abortion that likely violated a woman’s right to the procedure at certain times in a pregnancy. He said requiring doctors to notify patients about the law seemed intended to “make it less likely that a woman, though desiring to terminate her pregnancy because of a fetal genetic abnormality, will successfully exercise her right to do so.”
That amounts to “state-mandated misinformation” that forces women to find other healthcare providers, Rayes wrote.
State Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, the lead sponsor of the law, said unborn babies with disabilities are being targeted for abortions, and it needs to end.
“What we’re trying to do is protect those that are most vulnerable in the womb,” Barto said earlier this year, according to Capitol Media Services. “And right now, it’s those with disabilities. They’re being singled out and targeted.”
Research suggests between 60 percent and 90 percent of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the U.S. are aborted. Recent reports in The Atlantic and CBS News found that nearly 100 percent of unborn babies who test positive for Down syndrome are aborted in Iceland, 95 percent in Denmark and 90 percent in England.
Parents also frequently report feeling pressured to abort unborn babies with Down syndrome and other disabilities. One mom recently told the BBC that she was pressured to abort her unborn daughter 15 times, including right up to the moment of her baby’s birth. Another mother from Brooklyn, New York said doctors tried to convince her to abort her unborn son for weeks before they took no for an answer.
A number of states have passed laws to prohibit discriminatory abortions based on an unborn baby’s sex, race or disability, but federal courts are divided about the constitutionality of such laws. Many states are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the matter and allow unborn babies to be protected under the law again.