US federal appeals court allows challenge to Arizona ban on abortions in cases of fetal abnormality – JURIST

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overruled Monday a federal district court’s decision that doctors lacked standing to challenge an Arizona law banning abortion in cases of fetal abnormality.

Standing is a legal requirement that requires a plaintiff to show injury, a causal connection between the law and the injury, and the likelihood of redressability by a court. Here, the court ruled that all three were fulfilled, finding “actual and imminent injuries” as a result of the law before reversing and remanding the case back to the district court to be heard on its merits.

Petitioners filed the case seeking a preliminary injunction in reaction to the 2021 enactment of Senate Bill (SB) 1457, which criminalized abortions performed solely because of fetal abnormalities. They alleged in their filings that the law was overly vague and that as a result they were forced to overcompensate by refusing to do abortions that potentially fell outside of the law to avoid potential liability. The doctors claimed that the bill has directly caused monetary damages to their practices because of the loss of business.

SB 1457 was passed in 2021 by a Republican-led legislature and signed into law by then-Governor Doug Ducey. The bill mandates prison time for anyone who knowingly performs an abortion procedure solely based on genetic abnormalities while leaving an exception for “lethal fetal condition(s).” Recently, elected Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes refused to defend the challenge to the bill and also refused to enforce the law. President of the Arizona Senate, Warren Petersen, and the Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, Ben Toma, intervened to defend the challenge. 

Proponents of the bill argue that it protects against eugenics, while those opposing the bill argue that its vagueness is cumbersome for medical professionals and is intrusive on reproductive rights.  The bill also included bans on abortions performed solely based on the sex and/or race of the fetus and created a civil claim for “the father of the unborn child” to sue medical professionals for providing abortion services that run afoul of the law.

Appeals courts have taken different stands on similar bans in other districts, with the Sixth Circuit siding with enforcement of a ban and the Eighth Circuit ruling against enforcement. This month, the Ninth Circuit agreed to rehear a case against Idaho’s abortion ban, stopping the law’s enforcement in the meantime.


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