Arizona bans abortion for genetic abnormalities

Friday, April 30, 2021

On Tuesday, the Governor of the US state of Arizona Doug Ducey signed into law a bill banning abortion if sought solely because of a foetus' genetic abnormality.

Senate Bill 1457, which stalled twice for criticism by opponents of abortion, passed both chambers of the Republican-controlled Arizona Legislature last week in a party-line vote, amended twice along the way to alleviate concerns by two hesitant Republicans.

The bill makes it a Class 6 felony, the least severe, to seek or perform an abortion "because of a genetic abnormality of the child", defined as "the presence or presumed presence of an abnormal gene expression in an unborn child", but not a "severe fetal abnormality" considered "incompatible with life." Intimidating someone to get an abortion and soliciting or accepting monies to finance an abortion for this purpose has been made a Class 3 felony.

Pro-abortion rights Rally for Reproductive Rights in Chicago, Illinois on May 23, 2019.
Image: Charles Edward Miller.

The bill also allows the unborn child's father or, in case the mother is under 18, a maternal grandparent to sue, as well as including the applicability of state law to "an unborn child at every stage of development", which Senator Kirsten Engel and Representative Melody Hernandez wrote in a submitted minority report "would open up the potential for prosecutors to charge persons including the pregnant individual whose conduct results in a woman having a miscarriage with murder, manslaughter or child endangerment."

Other provisions of the bill includes a prohibition on the distribution "via courier, delivery or mail service" of abortion-inducing drugs, a ban on any public educational institution from performing or aiding non-life saving abortion, a ban on the use of public or tax monies paid by the state or students for university research involving foetal remains or somatic cell nuclear transfer, or any state money towards organisations providing abortion care, and requiring all foetal remains to be buried or cremated.

KYMA-DT reported Ducey is an anti-abortion rights governor who ran on the Republican ballot and has never vetoed anti-abortion legislation. In a statement, Duckey said, "[t]here's immeasurable value in every single life — regardless of genetic makeup [...] We will continue to prioritize protecting life in our preborn children, and this legislation goes a long way in protecting real human lives." The news release, originally published on his website also read, "[w]ith this legislation, Arizona remains among the top pro-life states in the nation."

Senator Nancy Barto said, according to the release "[w]e need to protect our most vulnerable, especially those with treatable genetic conditions [...] They are loved, integral members of our community that make Arizona whole". Cathi Herrod, president of Center for Arizona Policy said in her own news release, according to the Associated Press "[t]oday, Arizonans win."

Representative Diego Espinoza wrote in a tweet, "I'm disappointed to see Arizona moving in this direction, ignoring the needs and desires of doctors, women, and families for an extreme political agenda." Representative and House Democratic Leader Reginald Bolding wrote in a statement "it's disturbing and wrong that the legislature is not focusing on policies to help [women], and instead is stripping away the fundamental freedom to choose if, when, and how to start or grow a family."

In a letter shared to a Facebook post, the union United Campus Workers at Arizona State University urged last Saturday to the Arizona Board of Regents, university president Michael M. Crow and University of Arizona president Robert D. Robbins to "immediately speak out against SB 1457", calling it "a blatant attack on reproductive freedom".


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