Under the slogan “Protecting the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” the Republican-controlled legislature voted partisan on Thursday to reinstate a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy by making it a crime to have a child because of a fetal genetic defect to abort.
SB1457, now going to Governor Doug Ducey, says any medical professional who performs or assists an abortion in these cases can be sentenced to up to a year in prison. Ducey has not said whether he will sign or veto the measure.
The measure also:
– Enables the husband of a woman seeking such an abortion, or the woman’s parents if she is younger than 18 years of age, to sue on behalf of the unborn child;
– Bans the ability of women to receive otherwise legal drugs to have an abortion by mail or other delivery service;
– declares that the laws of Arizona must be interpreted in such a way that an unborn child has the same rights, privileges, and immunities that are available to others.
“We must stand up for those at risk, the children with Down syndrome and other genetic abnormalities who are being wiped out and standing up for their lives through no fault of their own in Arizona and across our country,” said Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, the sponsor of SB1457.
“This bill is about giving a child the right to live,” said Senator Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert. And he pointed out that Arizona already has laws against discrimination against people with disabilities.
“If we take action to protect people with disabilities outside the womb, we should also protect them from discrimination inside the womb,” said Petersen.
But Rep. Rosanna Gabaldon, D-Green Valley, said those claims sound hollow.
“This bill is an attempt by anti-abortion groups to co-opt the disability rights cloak,” she said. And Rep. Kelli Butler, D-Paradise Valley, said the move was not supported by any organization working for the disabled.
In many ways, the arguments of some proponents confirmed that the measure had less to do with disability than a way for those who oppose abortion in any form to find ways to circumvent the historic 1973 US Supreme Court ruling says women have the right to terminate pregnancy before a fetus is viable.
“Abortion is not health care,” said Senator Paul Boyer, R-Glendale. “Abortion costs the life of an innocent child every time.”
And Rep. Jacqueline Parker, R-Mesa, whose grandfather was an obstetrician, said she saw nothing wrong with criminalizing abortion.
“A doctor who deliberately kills a patient should be charged with a crime,” she said.
It is less clear whether the measure is constitutional.
In the years since Roe v. Wade, the judges have allowed states to impose some restrictions on the process. In general, however, these were limited to questions of protecting the mother’s life.
Petersen pointed out that five other states have similar laws. This includes Ohio, where the law allows a doctor to be punished for performing an abortion after a patient explains that a fetus with Down syndrome is part of her choice.
Earlier this month, a divided federal appeals court agreed to bring this law into effect, with the majority concluding that it promotes the state’s interest in affirming that individuals with the genetic disorder are “equal in dignity and worth” others are. And the judges said there is no absolute ban on abortion.
However, none of these laws have yet to be brought before the Supreme Court.