Arizona Pushes To Treat Embryos And Fertilized Eggs As People

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An Arizona law that would grant personhood to fetuses, embryos, and fertilized human eggs will be challenged in federal court on Friday as opponents seek to prevent abortion restrictions in the state.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona are among the groups seeking an injunction against a fetal personhood provision included in a 2021 law.

The provision would confer on fetuses, embryos and fertilized eggs the same rights as people who have already been born and could lead to prosecutions against women who have abortions.

Challengers are concerned that women who have the procedure and healthcare professionals who provide it could be at risk of charges such as assault or child endangerment if personhood rights are conferred in this way.

The emergency motion to block the personhood measure was filed after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, where the Court struck down 49-year-old precedent in Roe v. Wade and found that the U.S. Constitution does not protect a woman’s right to an abortion.

Another provision of the 2021 Arizona law makes abortion illegal if there is an indication that the patient’s reason for seeking an abortion is the condition or diagnosis of the fetus, this includes Down Syndrome, cystic fibrosis and other conditions which the law refers to as “genetic abnormalities.”

Two Arizona doctors, the Arizona Medical Association, the National Council of Jewish Women Arizona, and the Arizona National Organization of Women are challenging the law and are represented by the ACLU, Center for Reproductive Rights and the ACLU of Arizona.

Defendants in the case include Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, every county attorney in Arizona, the Arizona Medical Board, the Arizona Department of Health Services, and certain other officials.

In September 2021 Federal District Judge Douglas Rayes agreed to block the section of the law about genetic conditions but declined to grant an injunction against the personhood provision.

The plaintiffs filed an appeal against the denial of an injunction, while the state appealed the blocking of the genetic conditions measure.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s subsequent ruling in Dobbs on June 24, 2022, potentially changed the legal landscape on abortion rights and restrictions, meaning a series of previously unenforceable laws would now go into effect.

Plaintiffs then filed an emergency motion for an injunction of the fetal personhood section of the law on June 25. A hearing will take place on Friday before Judge Rayes.

The Center for Arizona Policy supported the 2021 abortion law and its president, Cathi Herrod, told the Associated Press in June that she expected to see other lawsuits challenging Arizona’s abortion restrictions.

“The overturning of Roe allows the states to set abortion laws,” she said. “Arizona set this law to say that unborn children are protected in the law.”