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Federal Judge Blocks Arizona Law That Would Give Personhood To Unborn Children

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


A federal judge has stepped in and blocked a law that would give rights to unborn babies.

The law was passed in 2021 and it said that unborn babies be treated with the same rights as every other human,” AZ Central reported.

But Obama appointed U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Rayes, struck down the law, arguing that it was “unconstitutionally vague.”

His argument, when he struck down the law on Monday, was that people with “ordinary intelligence” may not be able to comprehend it.

“A law is unconstitutionally vague if its application is so unclear that people of ordinary intelligence cannot figure out in advance how to comply with it,” he said.

It is tough to fathom how someone with “ordinary intelligence” would not able to comprehend that a human baby, in the womb or born, is a human baby and deserving of the same rights.

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“When the punitive and regulatory weight of the entire Arizona code is involved, Plaintiffs should not have to guess at whether their conduct is on the right or the wrong side of the law,” he said.

Often called a “personhood” or “interpretation” provision, the law passed last year and signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey gave fetuses at each stage of development “all rights, privileges and immunities available to other persons, citizens and residents of this state.”

Abortion rights groups argued that could lead to arbitrary enforcement and expose doctors to criminal penalties for crimes like child abuse if they perform abortions. In oral arguments Friday, attorneys for the state said it was Brnovich’s opinion those charges would not apply, but that the request to block the law was premature.

Attorneys for two doctors in Phoenix and Scottsdale, who are plaintiffs in the case and who feared criminal penalties if they provided abortions, applauded the decision.

“The court made the right decision today by blocking this law from being used to create an unthinkably extreme abortion ban,” Center for Reproductive Rights senior staff attorney Jessica Sklarsky said. “The Supreme Court’s catastrophic decision overturning Roe v. Wade has unleashed chaos on the ground, leaving Arizona residents scrambling to figure out if they can get the abortion care they need. People should not have to live in a state of fear when accessing or providing essential healthcare.”

Brittni Thomason, a spokesperson for the office of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, argued against the decision.

“Today’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,” she said.

Last week, the Louisiana Supreme Court rejected the state attorney general’s request to enforce abortion ban laws after they were put on hold by an Orleans Civil Court Judge.

“A judge had temporarily blocked enforcement of Louisiana’s “trigger law” banning nearly all abortions last week. The judge placed a temporary stay on enforcement following a lawsuit from abortion providers in the state, who argued it was overly vague,” Fox News reported.

“Thursday’s state Supreme Court ruling allows that stay to remain in place at least through Friday when abortion providers will make their case in court. Louisiana was the first state to have its abortion bans challenged after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade in late June. It is not the only one, however, as Texas and Kentucky have faced similar issues,” the outlet added.

Earlier this week, the Kentucky Supreme Court denied the state attorney general’s emergency appeal to have a near-total abortion ban reinstated after it was blocked by a circuit court judge last week.

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After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last month, it triggered a Kentucky law, the Human Life Protection Act, that bans all abortions except any performed to save a mother’s life or prevent her serious injury.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of abortion providers in Kentucky, claiming the abortion law in the state “unconstitutionally forces women to remain pregnant against their will.”

Last week, a Florida judge temporarily blocked a new 15-week abortion ban days after it took effect in the state.

However, a state appeal means the court’s order has automatically been stayed, keeping the law in place for the time being.

“In a lengthy ruling issued Tuesday, Leon County Circuit Court Judge John Cooper stated that the recent Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization – which overturned Roe v. Wade – has no bearing on this case. That is because while Roe was based on the idea of a right to privacy that is not explicitly in the Constitution, the Florida state constitution specifically does include a right to privacy,” Fox News reported.

“The right to privacy under the Florida Constitution is ‘much broader in scope’ than any privacy right under the United States Constitution,” Cooper wrote.

“Cooper cited other past cases, including a 2003 Florida Supreme Court case that said it would be wrong to compare federal and Florida privacy rights ‘in light of the fact that there is no express federal right of privacy clause.’ As a result of the state right being expressly written into the state constitution, Cooper said there is a higher level of scrutiny, and that ‘any law that implicates the fundamental right of privacy is … presumed to be unconstitutional,'” the Fox report added.

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