Arizona lawmaker demands Black colleague be ‘sat down’ in voting rights debate

Arizona bans abortions for Down’s syndrome

Doctors who perform an abortion solely because the child has a survivable genetic issue can face felony charge

Louise Hall
Wednesday 28 April 2021 16:02
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Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has signed a sweeping anti-abortion bill that bans the procedure if the woman is seeking it solely because a fetus has a genetic abnormality such as Down’s syndrome.

The proposal, signed on Tuesday also contains a raft of other provisions sought by abortion opponents.

The measure passed the Republican-controlled Legislature on party-line votes over unanimous opposition from minority Democrats.

Mr Ducey, a Republican, is an abortion opponent who has never vetoed a piece of anti-abortion legislation.

The Senate bill stalled twice before moving through the legislature amid intense pressure by abortion opponents on GOP lawmakers who opposed some of its provisions and passed both chambers last week.

Doctors who perform an abortion solely because the child has a survivable genetic issue can face felony charges.

The original bill included a provision that conferred all civil rights to unborn children. Democrats call that “personhood” provision a backdoor way to allow criminal charges against a woman who has an abortion.

The bill also bans mail delivery of abortion-inducing medication and allows the father or maternal grandparents the right to sue if a fetus aborted because of a genetic issue.

It also bans the spending of any state money toward organisations that provide abortion, forbids state universities from providing abortion care, and requires fetal remains to be buried or cremated.

“There’s immeasurable value in every single life — regardless of genetic makeup,” Mr Ducey said in a statement.

“We will continue to prioritise protecting life in our preborn children, and this legislation goes a long way in protecting real human lives."

The bill was amended twice to allay the concerns that a woman would be forced to carry a fetus that could not survive or a second concerned that a doctors' medical decisions could be overruled by a jury.

That GOP-backed amendment also clarified that the “personhood" provision does not ban in-vitro fertilisation. Democrats issued a lengthy written rebuttal to the bill after the final amendment.

The measure was a top priority for the social conservative group Center for Arizona Policy whose president, Cathi Herrod, routinely backs anti-abortion bills in the Legislature.

National anti-abortion groups hailed its passage and minutes after the governor acted, Ms Herrod sent out a news release with the subject line “Life Wins!”

“Today, Arizonans win. Arizona children diagnosed with disabilities prior to birth will no longer be discriminated against,” she wrote in the release.

“Arizona women will be ensured commonsense safeguards if they choose the abortion pill. Arizona taxpayers will not be forced to support abortions at public colleges and universities, and the laws of Arizona will be interpreted to value all human life.”

Abortion rights groups had rallied at the Capitol on Monday, urging Mr Ducey to veto the measure and presenting him with petitions signed by opponents of the bill.

Rep Diego Espinoza of Tolleson condemned the action in a tweet saying: “Gov Ducey’s decision to sign SB1457 is not pro-life. It is anti-families, anti-woman, and anti-doctor.”

“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.”

Republican-controlled legislatures in Arizona and several other states have embraced proposals this year that could completely ban abortion. An Arizona proposal doing that, however, has not advanced.

The states have become emboldened by the possibility that a more conservative US Supreme Court could overturn Roe vs Wade, the 1973 ruling that women have a constitutional right to seek an abortion.

Reporting by the Associated Press