A federal judge struck down a 2021 state “personhood” law that gave all legal rights to unborn children, reports NBC News.
U.S. District Judge Douglas Rayes argued in his ruling that abortion rights groups who filed a lawsuit to block the laws are right because it is “anyone’s guess,” as the state acknowledged, "what criminal laws abortion providers may be breaking if they perform otherwise-legal abortions."
“And that is the problem,” Rayes wrote. “When the punitive and regulatory weight of the entire Arizona code is involved, plaintiffs should not have to guess at whether their conduct is on the right or the wrong side of the law.”
Rayes’ ruling blocks enforcement of the law as other challenges make their way through the court, including a possible trial.
“Medical providers should not have to guess about whether the otherwise lawful performance of their jobs could lead to criminal, civil or professional liability solely based on how literally or maximalist state licensing, law enforcement and judicial officials might construe the Interpretation Policy’s command,” added Rates.
Although Rayes had refused to block the personhood law last year, abortion rights groups requested again that he block the law after Roe v. Wade was struck down last month, and he changed his stance.
The groups expressed concerns that providers were fearful if they could be charged with child abuse, assault or a litany of other crimes, and that the law was unconstitutionally vague.” Also, they noted their concern about possible civil and regulatory action if abortions were conducted.
“The court made the right decision today by blocking this law from being used to create an unthinkably extreme abortion ban,” said Jessica Sklarsky, a lawyer at the Center for Reproductive Rights who argued the case. “The Supreme Court’s catastrophic decision overturning Roe v. Wade has unleashed chaos on the ground, leaving Arizona residents scrambling to figure out if they can get the abortion care they need.”
The power of states has increased to place restrictions on abortion because of the Supreme Courts' decision last month. In the state of Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill that bans abortions after 15 weeks in March.
According to the most recent report from the Arizona Department of Health Services, there were just over 13,000 abortions in Arizona in 2020. 650 of those abortions were performed after 15 weeks of gestation.
Other states that have enacted similar “personhood” laws in effect, include Missouri, Kansas, Georgia and Alabama.