The Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union targeted an Arizona law restricting abortions performed on the basis of a baby’s genetic abnormalities — such as Down syndrome or cystic fibrosis — in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in a U.S. District Court.
The lawsuit comes just a couple weeks after Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey joined 11 other Republican governors and over 200 GOP lawmakers and officials in filing a brief with the Supreme Court requesting that they overturn Roe vs. Wade. The court will consider whether a Mississippi law abortion ban is constitutional when they hear arguments for Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization this fall.
Adding to the host of state abortion restrictions passed this year, the Arizona law was signed in April and says that anyone who “performs an abortion knowing that the abortion is sought because of a genetic abormality of the child” is guilty of a felony and could lose their medical license. Nurses, assistants, or other health professionals who are aware that such an abortion is performed can be fined $10,000 if they fail to report it.
The law further stipulates that unborn children “at every stage of development” are entitled to the full “rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens and residents of this state.”
Abortion-rights advocates worry that the law’s restrictions will harm doctor-patient communication and counseling — doctors or counselors may be reticent to discuss a woman’s reason for having an abortion if they know that they are legally barred from allowing one based solely on genetic abnormalities.
“You have a constitutional right to an abortion, and that right does not take into account your reason for having an abortion,” said Emily Nestler, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Politicians should not get to interrogate people’s reasons for seeking an abortion.”
Arizona law, however, has prohibited race-related and sex-selection abortions since 2011 and was the first state to enact such a ban. Now 11 states ban abortions at some point in pregancy for reason of sex selection, four states prohibit abortions for reasons of race, and six states prohibit abortions when the fetus may have a genetic anomaly — according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion activist organization.
A 2020 study noted that in about 1 out of every 150 pregnancies the baby has some sort of chromosomal abnormality, many of which can be detected in prenatal genetic screenings. Research shows that 90 to 94 percent of these babies are aborted.
Katie Connor, spokesperson for the Attorney General Mark Brnovich, one of the defendants in the suit, said, “The attorney general has a sacred duty to stand-up for society’s most vulnerable and our office will faithfully defend Arizona’s law to protect the lives of the unborn.”