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Arizona law criminalizing abortions sought for genetic abnormalities put on hold by judge

A federal judge has temporarily blocked enforcement of Arizona’s law criminalizing abortions based on genetic conditions, an 11th-hour ruling that labels parts of the law as both “troubling” and as promoting “state-mandated misinformation.” The judge’s order means people who become pregnant can continue to receive abortions because of diagnoses like Down syndrome or cystic fibrosis, and doctors can provide those services without fearing penalties including prison time. Other provisions of the law were allowed to take effect, however. “Carrying any fetus with genetic abnormalities is a complex and very difficult decision for anyone to make,” said Civia Tamarkin, president of the National Council of Jewish Women Arizona, one of several groups asking the judge to permanently overturn the law. “This immediately gives the opportunity to make one’s own decision, and consider all the options.” Supporters of the measure said the ruling removes anti-discrimination protections and noted it was just a first review by the courts. “We remain confident the law will be upheld and ruled enforceable in its entirety. It’s a shame the abortion industry is standing in the way of protecting the most vulnerable from discrimination and life itself,” said Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, in a released statement. State lawmakers sent Gov. Doug Ducey Senate Bill 1457 earlier this year, levying criminal penalties against doctors and others that financed abortions if people who become pregnant sought the procedure based solely on genetic abnormalities. Ducey signed it into law in April, and it was set to take effect Wednesday. While U.S. District Court Judge Douglas L. Rayes granted abortion advocates’ request to delay criminal enforcement while the legal challenge goes forward, he did not stop implementation of a provision giving fetuses and embryos civil rights as if they were any other person, among other provisions. Rayes’ ruling says it was too early to rule on that issue before seeing how it will be enforced and interpreted by Arizona judges. Several medical and pro-choice groups opposed the law and argued that two provisions should be delayed from taking effect. The groups include the Arizona Medical Association, individual doctors Paul A. Isaacson of Phoenix and Eric M. Reuss of Scottsdale, and Arizona chapters of the National Organization for Women, American Civil Liberties Union and National Council of Jewish Women. Their lawyers argued the law would create barriers to abortion that violate a person’s constitutional rights and those established in two cases that set the framework for abortion access, Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. They said the law was vague, unenforceable and amounted to an illegal ban on abortion.

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