Judge Temporarily Blocks Arizona ‘Personhood’ Law Protecting Unborn from Moment of Conception

A federal judge has temporarily blocked a 2021 Arizona law that provides all legal rights to unborn babies from the moment of conception, agreeing with abortion providers who argued the law is too vague.

In his decision Monday, Judge Douglas Rayes of U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, a Barack Obama appointee, said the state’s “personhood” law is “unconstitutionally vague.”

“Plaintiffs should not have to guess at whether their conduct is on the right or the wrong side of the law,” Rayes wrote. “Nor should they have to hire a lawyer and file declaratory judgment actions in state court, as suggested by Defendants at oral argument. A law which requires such extraordinary effort to decipher fails to give ordinary people fair notice of the conduct it permits and proscribes.”

“Although this motion comes to the Court in the context of abortion care, it is not about abortion per se,” Rayes also noted in his ruling. “It is about giving people fair notice of what the law means so that they know in advance how to comply.”

The judge also stated that giving an unborn baby the same rights as others could render an abortion as a homicide under Arizona law.

The Washington Examiner reported Tuesday the office of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a statement the judge’s ruling was “based on an interpretation of Arizona law that our office did not agree with, and we are carefully considering our next steps.”

The Arizona affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed to block the “personhood” law following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade.

In addition to granting all legal rights to the unborn that are “available to other persons, citizens and residents” of the state, the Arizona “personhood” law banned abortions sought for the purpose of sex or race selection and due to a prenatal diagnosis of a genetic abnormality.

Since the Dobbs ruling last month, most abortions in Arizona have been halted due to a pre-1901 state ban on the procedure.

In an opinion piece Sunday at AZCentral, Cathi Herrod, president of the pro-life Center for Arizona Policy, wrote the state’s pre-Roe abortion ban “is worth defending, and had been in effect in 1973.

“[T]he only thing that blocked enforcement then was the faulty ruling in Roe,” she observed.

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Susan Berry, PhD, is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]



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