Doctors, Pro-Choice Groups Sue to Stop New Arizona Abortion Ban

The fine art of the uterus.
The fine art of the uterus. Lynn Trimble
Pro-choice advocates have filed a lawsuit in federal court in an attempt to stop a controversial new anti-abortion law that state lawmakers approved earlier this year.

Arizona doctors Paul A. Isaacson and Eric M. Reuss, along with the Arizona Medical Association, the National Council of Jewish Women Arizona, and the Arizona National Organization for Women filed the suit in the U.S. District Court of Arizona. They are seeking an injunction to stop the scheduled September 29 implementation of a sweeping bill that criminalizes some abortions and threatens abortion doctors with jail time. The Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the ACLU of Arizona are providing legal counsel for the plaintiffs.

Governor Doug Ducey signed Senate Bill 1457 last April.

The filing targets the bill's ban on abortions based on diagnoses of fetal genetic abnormalities like Down's syndrome. The suit also challenges a provision that gives fetuses the same rights as children and adults. The plaintiffs argue that the law violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

"[The law] imposes drastic and unlawful measures that ban abortion for an entire group of Arizona patients, and also threatens maternal healthcare by creating new personhood rights for fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses," the lawsuit states. "If S.B. 1457 is not enjoined it will wreak havoc on reproductive healthcare across Arizona, with devastating effects for pregnant patients and medical providers throughout the state."

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, along with county prosecutors across Arizona — including Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel — and a variety of state health officials are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Ryan Anderson, a spokesperson for Brnovich, did not respond to Phoenix New Times' request for comment.

Civia Tamarkin, president of the National Council of Jewish Women Arizona, denounced Senate Bill 1457 as "unconstitutional" and "ludicrous."

"Arizona has long had some of the most restrictive reproductive laws on the books," she said in a phone interview. "But this bill takes it to the extreme by giving fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses the same rights and protections under Arizona law as the person carrying them. That is extremist."

In addition to obtaining an immediate injunction to stop the law from going into effect, Tamarkin said the plaintiffs ultimately want the courts to declare the law unconstitutional.

The lawsuit comes after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case out of Mississippi that seeks to challenge Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that protects abortion rights across the U.S. Both Ducey and Brnovich recently signed on to amicus briefs that called for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.  Arizona Republican lawmakers introduced a slew of anti-abortion bills during the 2021 legislative session. Pro-choice advocates criticized the bills as a strategy to garner lawsuits and get abortion cases before the Supreme Court, which is now stacked with conservative justices.

Read the full filing below:
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Josh Kelety is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. Previously, he worked as a reporter for the Inlander and Seattle Weekly.
Contact: Josh Kelety