Federal Judge Blocks Arizona Law Banning Abortions on Babies With Down Syndrome

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Oct 20, 2021   |   12:42PM   |   Phoenix, Arizona

Arizona may not enforce a new law that protects unborn babies with genetic disorders like Down syndrome from discriminatory abortions, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

News 4 Tucson reports U.S. District Judge Douglas Rayes refused Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s request to lift a temporary block on the law while the legal battle continues.

In September, Rayes blocked the law, arguing that it likely will be found unconstitutional because it “imposes an undue burden on the rights of a woman.”

The law, which passed in April, 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. An older Arizona law also prohibits discriminatory abortions because of an unborn baby’s race or sex.

Before the law could go into effect, however, the Center for Reproductive Rights and other pro-abortion groups filed a lawsuit challenging it as an unconstitutional burden on women’s “right” to abortion.

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Rayes agreed, writing in his ruling Tuesday that the law would “harm” women if it went into effect, according to the Daily Independent.

“Defendants’ argument overstates the injury to Arizona and minimizes the harms to plaintiffs and their patients,” the judge wrote.

Despite the fact that the law protects unborn babies from violent, deadly discrimination, Rayes argued that blocking it does not cause any real harm to the state. He faulted Brnovich for failing to show any irreparable injury caused by blocking the law, and argued that the law would hurt women if the state enforces it, according to the report.

“Although a state suffers a form of irreparable injury whenever it is enjoined from implementing its laws, that injury alone does not support a stay when balanced against a stay would impose on others,” he wrote.

The judge also accused the attorney general of misinterpreting his September ruling.

Here’s more from the report:

The judge said Brnovich is emphasizing his findings that, strictly speaking, a woman possibly could still find a doctor to perform the abortion. But Rayes said the attorney general is ignoring the rest of the order where he found the law “likely would make it substantially more difficult for women seeking to terminate their pre-viability pregnancies because of a genetic fetal abnormality to receive constitutionally protected care.”

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office said it plans to appeal.

In September, Rayes blocked parts of the pro-life law while allowing other life-saving parts to go into effect. The provisions now in effect include a ban on dangerous mail-order abortion drugs and a requirement that abortion facilities provide a dignified burial or cremation for aborted babies. Additionally, the law prohibits public, taxpayer-funded universities from providing or referring for elective abortions.

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 by allowing unborn babies to be protected.