Judge blocks key part of Arizona law banning doctors from aborting babies based solely on genetic abnormality

Mary Margaret Olohan, DCNF

An Arizona judge blocked part of an abortion law Tuesday that banned doctors from knowingly aborting a baby if the abortion is based solely on a genetic abnormality like Down Syndrome.

Former President Barack Obama appointee, U.S. District Judge Douglas Rayes, wrote that the provision “essentially requires providers to mislead their patients into believing that their constitutionally protected choice is unlawful,” according to the Associated Press.

“This problem is exacerbated by the reality that the decision to terminate a pregnancy is a complex one, and often is motivated by a variety of considerations, some of which are inextricably intertwined with the detection of a fetal genetic,” Rayes wrote, Reuters reported.

Rayes also threw out a provision in the law that criminalized helping or paying for an abortion based solely on genetic abnormality, the publication reported, saying that the provisions were probably unconstitutionally vague because it is unclear at what point a doctor would know the baby had a genetic abnormality.

The American Civil Liberties Union celebrated the news in a Tuesday evening tweet, saying that it will “keep doing everything in our power to ensure no one is forced to carry a pregnancy against their will regardless of where they live.”

S.B. 1457 states that the rights of “an unborn child at every stage of development” must be acknowledged and prohibits abortions based on the sex, race, or genetic abnormality of the child. The bill makes exceptions for medical emergencies.

“A person who knowingly” performs such an abortion “is guilty of a class 3 felony,” according to the legislation.

One in every 700 babies in the U.S. is born with Down syndrome, according to the National Down Syndrome Society. It is not clear what number of babies with Down syndrome are aborted, but one 2012 study estimated the abortion rate for babies with Downs was 67%, the Associated Press reported.

A September 2011 study on perceptions of people with Down syndrome found that almost 99% of people with Down syndrome said they were happy with their lives and loved their families, 97% liked who they were and their brothers and sisters, and 96% liked how they look.

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