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Federal judge blocks Arizona's genetic-abnormality abortion ban

Abortion
An activist holds a rosary while ralling against abortion outside City Hall in Los Angeles, California September 29, 2015. U.S. Congressional Republicans on Tuesday challenged Planned Parenthood's eligibility for federal funds, while the health organization's president said defunding it would restrict women's access to care and disproportionately hurt low-income patients. |

A federal judge has struck down a crucial part of an Arizona law banning abortions based on genetic abnormalities, accusing the state of providing women seeking abortions with "misinformation."

U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Rayes, appointed to the bench by former President Barack Obama, struck down a portion of a pro-life Arizona law that criminalizes the performance of an abortion "knowing that the abortion is sought because of a genetic abnormality of the child."  

In his ruling Tuesday obtained by The Arizona Republic, Rayes alleged that the provision of Senate Bill 1457 "essentially requires providers to mislead their patients into believing that their constitutionally protected choice is unlawful."

Additionally, he concluded that the law was designed to "make it less likely that a woman, though desiring to terminate her pregnancy because of a fetal genetic abnormality, will successfully exercise her right to do so" and accused the measure of perpetuating "state-mandated misinformation." 

In response to Rayes' ruling, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich vowed to appeal the decision.

"Our job is to defend the law, and we will continue to do so," he said in a statement. "Whether it's pushing back against unconstitutional mandates or defending our laws against pro-abortion activists, we will continue to lead the charge and stand up for Arizonans." 

While Rayes struck down a portion of Senate Bill 1457 that bans abortions based on genetic abnormalities, he left other parts of the law in place.

He declined to invalidate the provision of the law awarding unborn children at every stage of development "all rights, privileges and immunities available to other persons, citizens and residents of this state."

Provisions of the law requiring the cremation or burial of aborted babies and banning the distribution of abortion pills by mail were also left untouched by Rayes.

Arizona is one of several states that have enacted bans on abortions performed based on genetic abnormalities.

Other states that have banned abortions based on Down syndrome diagnosis or other congenital abnormalities include North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Utah, Tennessee and Indiana. The laws have received a mixed reception from the courts, with appellate courts upholding the measures in Ohio and Tennessee while the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Arkansas' abortion ban.

As courts in the United States continue to debate the constitutionality of laws prohibiting the abortion of babies based on genetic abnormalities, Poland's Constitutional Tribunal, the country's equivalent of a Supreme Court, found that a law permitting such abortions to take place violated the Polish constitution. Meanwhile, last week, the United Kingdom's High Court of Justice upheld a law allowing abortions based on fetal abnormalities after 24 weeks gestation. 

Supporters of the bans on abortions based on genetic abnormalities argue that terminating pregnancies because of a prenatal diagnosis constitutes eugenics. They point to the near-extinction of babies born with Down syndrome in Denmark and other European countries as a cause for concern. 

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas warned in 2019 concurring opinion of the "potential for abortion to become a tool of eugenic manipulation."

"With today's prenatal screening tests and other technologies, abortion can easily be used to eliminate children with unwanted characteristics," Thomas wrote. 

"In Iceland, the abortion rate for children diagnosed with Down syndrome in utero approaches 100%," he added. "Other European countries have similarly high rates, and the rate in the United States is approximately two-thirds."

A group of children with Down syndrome appeared in a 2018 video asking to be put on the international endangered species list. 

Public opinion polling has indicated that most Americans support bans on abortions based on genetic abnormalities. A poll conducted by Marist on behalf of the Catholic fraternal organization Knights of Columbus released earlier this year found that 70% of Americans, including 59% of Democrats and 56% of those who self-identify as pro-choice, oppose or strongly oppose "abortion because the child will be born with Down syndrome." 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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