PHOENIX (LifeSiteNews) – A U.S. District Court Judge on Monday placed an injunction on an Arizona fetal personhood law that holds that life begins at the moment of conception.
Judge Douglas L. Rayes ruled Monday that S.B. 1457 was too vague in its personhood provision, holding that the rights of abortion providers in Arizona were violated as they would not be able to know how to act in accord with the law.
“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,” Rayes stated in his opinion. He also maintained that while the case came “in the context of abortion care, [sic] it is not about abortion per se.”
He declined to rule “on whether a law defining ‘person’ to include the unborn for all purposes and without exception would be constitutional.”
The ruling comes as Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich faces a lawsuit over S.B. 1457 filed on behalf of abortion providers. The providers argue that the vagueness of the law allows for charges of child abuse, assault, and other crimes to be filed against them, and that it was “anyone’s guess” how the statute might be applied. The providers further argue that the law abridges the freedom of speech between patients and doctors, as well as putting a burden on the “rights” of women to an abortion before viability.
The state argued in a July 1 briefing that the law should be enforced because the providers failed to prove that they faced possible irreparable harm as a result of the law. A lawyer from Brnovich’s office further testified on July 8 that the law does not create new criminal penalties that could lead to charges.
Brittni Thompson, a spokeswoman for Brnovich’s office, told the Associated Press that “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,” and that the office is seeking to bring “clarity to the law for Arizonans.”
Brnovich previously stated that he would start enforcing a 1901 law that bans nearly all abortions following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which reversed Roe v. Wade. The 1901 law is in effect in Arizona save for Pima County, the second-most populous county in the state and the county in which Tucson is located.
In March, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed a 15-week abortion ban.
Rayes let the fetal personhood law stand in September last year after abortion providers filed a lawsuit in an effort to block the law. However, Rayes blocked the law’s prohibition on abortions in cases of survivable genetic abnormalities.
Rayes’ injunction on S.B. 1457 stands while the lawsuit is pending. He also forbade the state from retroactive enforcement of the law “against those who performed otherwise lawful abortions during the time that this preliminary injunction is in effect.”
At least four other states have similar personhood laws, including Missouri, Kansas, Georgia, and Alabama.
At least 18 states have had abortion bans take effect since the Supreme Court overruled Roe last month. Some states have seen legal challenges to these laws. In Louisiana, a judge temporarily blocked the state’s trigger law on Tuesday days after another state judge allowed it to go into effect last week.
In Utah, a 2020 trigger law was blocked by a judge who maintained that its “immediate effects that will occur outweigh any policy interest of the state in stopping abortions immediately.” The block followed a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood of Utah and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The block was extended Tuesday pending the conclusion of the lawsuit.
The Texas Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that a pre–Roe abortion ban could be enforced, after a lower court temporarily blocked the law. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton previously issued an advisory that stated that the 1925 law was enforceable in the wake of the Dobbs decision.