PHOENIX – Arizona made national headlines Tuesday when Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed one of the state’s most restrictive abortion laws in years: Senate Bill 1457, which criminalizes abortions based on certain genetic conditions and extends civil rights to fetuses.
The signing follows months of intense committee hearings, rallies and debates. Supporters insisted the legislation would protect Arizona’s most vulnerable, while opponents said the bill was unconstitutional and “medically flawed.”
Ducey cited “immeasurable value in every life” in explaining his signing on Tuesday, saying Arizona “will continue to prioritize protecting the lives of our unborn children.” Within hours, however, reproductive rights activists were planning to sue the state.
Here’s a closer look at the law’s path to adoption and its potential impact.
What exactly will the law do?
Medical providers who terminate their pregnancy solely because of survival conditions like Down syndrome or cystic fibrosis will face a Class 6 felony charge under Senate Bill 1457. Healthcare professionals who fail to report such abortions will also face fines of up to $ 10,000.
Fetuses will enjoy all rights, privileges, and immunities available to other Arizonans, “subject to the federal constitution and decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States.” Fetal remains must be buried or cremated.
Public educational institutions will be prohibited from performing abortions unless the mother’s life is in danger and from using public money to support research involving abortions or embryo transfers.
Sending and delivering drugs that induce abortion will also be illegal.
Are there any exceptions?
Yes. The prohibition does not apply to any abortion involving a “fatal fetal condition”, defined in state law as a “condition diagnosed before birth and which will, with reasonable certainty, result in the death of the child at birth. be born within three months of birth ”.
The law also does not apply to embryos used for in vitro fertilization.
When does it come into effect?
Since it does not contain an emergency clause, Senate Bill 1457 will not come into force until 90 days after the Legislative Assembly adjourns for the year.
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Is anyone trying to stop him in court?
A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona said reproductive rights activists and others are considering legal action to prevent the law from coming into force.
As of Thursday, advocacy groups have yet to file a complaint.
What were the arguments in favor of the law?
The sponsor of the bill, Senator Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, highlighted Arizona’s current ban on abortions based on race or gender, saying people with genetic abnormalities should receive the same level of protection.
“Almost 100% of (fetuses) with Down syndrome in Iceland never see the light of day” because women choose to terminate these pregnancies, Barto said. “Here in the United States, we’re getting there. “
The senator also argued that requiring the burial or cremation of fetal remains “would give value to the unborn child” and highlighted the provision prohibiting the administration of abortion drugs as an effort to s ‘ensure that women “are not left to fend for themselves”.
“The women of Arizona… deserve better than to stake their health for the benefit of the abortion industry,” she said.
Other Republican lawmakers have said the bill will help prevent “modern eugenics” by ensuring equal treatment for babies with genetic abnormalities.
They claimed Democrats mistook health care for murder, with one representative saying any doctor who “intentionally kills their patients should lose their license.”
What were the arguments against?
Opponents accused Barto of using people with disabilities as pawns, noting that prominent disability rights groups had not supported the measure. Representative Daniel Hernandez, D-Tucson, accused GOP leaders of caring about protecting children with disabilities only until they are born.
The general threat of criminalization has also prompted various OB-GYNs to testify that they are fearful of providing pregnant patients with comprehensive genetic testing and counseling.
“Without routine screening, genetic diseases that might be detected, some of which can be treated in utero, will go undetected, leading to potential harm to mother and child,” wrote a healthcare professional in a letter to his state representative.
The fetal rights provision has also proven contentious, upsetting several Arizona religious leaders who have argued there is no consensus on when life begins. “The interpretation of scriptures or a group’s personal beliefs, no matter how strong, should not be legislated over others,” they wrote in a joint letter.
Representative Kelli Butler, D-Phoenix, fought the provision banning the delivery of abortion-inducing drugs, calling its possible impact on women who had been prescribed a drug also used to manage miscarriages as “horrific.”
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Wait… Wasn’t he rejected?
Yes. Senator Tyler Pace, R-Mesa, temporarily sunk the legislation in early April, when he joined Democrats to vote “no” in the Senate.
At the time, the bill exempted abortions involving “serious fetal abnormalities,” but Pace argued that the bill did not clearly define the term.
He was concerned that lay jurors would have to determine whether physicians had exercised reasonable medical judgment – “far reaching,” in his opinion – and feared that the provision on the “rights, privileges and immunities” of the fetus might threaten in vitro fertilization procedures.
After reviving the legislation through a series of procedural maneuvers, Barto negotiated a compromise with Pace, agreeing to three changes to the bill in return for his support.
The revisions included exemption from IVF; replacing “serious fetal anomalies” with more precisely defined “fatal fetal conditions”; and a clarification that the ban applied to abortions performed solely because of a genetic disease.
Abortion laws in other states
Energized by the broad conservative majority in the U.S. Supreme Court, Republican lawmakers across the country have introduced a host of aggressive bills aimed at limiting access to abortion – and, in many cases, to criminalize – abortion this year.
As of the end of March, more than 500 restrictions had been introduced in 44 states, according to data compiled by the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research organization.
Arizona’s Senate Bill 1457 was certainly among the most sweeping proposals, but it was not the most aggressive.
The legislatures of South Carolina, Oklahoma and Idaho have passed so-called heartbeat bans, which ban abortions as early as six weeks pregnant. Oklahoma also passed a measure that would immediately ban abortion in the state if the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Follow Maria Polletta on Twitter @mpolletta.