US federal judge blocks Arizona ‘personhood’ abortion law
© WikiMedia Commons (Elvert Barnes)
US federal judge blocks Arizona ‘personhood’ abortion law

US District Court Judge Douglas Rayes Monday blocked Arizona’s “personhood” law from taking effect. Rayes found the law was too vague, making it likely that plaintiffs will win their case, justifying his injunctive order until the case is settled.

Arizona’s “personhood” law was passed in 2021 and states:

The laws of this state shall be interpreted and construed to acknowledge, on behalf of an unborn child at every stage of development, all rights, privileges and immunities available to other persons, citizens and residents of this state, subject only to the constitution of the United States and decisional interpretations thereof by the United States supreme court.

The key language being challenged is the word “acknowledged,” which plaintiffs claim is too vague.

Plaintiffs in the case include the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona, the Arizona Medical Association, the Arizona National Council of Jewish Women, Arizona NOW, and two abortion providers, Dr. Paul Isaacson and Dr. Eric Reuss. Both Isaacson and Reuss claim the law is too vague and, as a result, they have stopped any abortion care altogether.

The order states, “[t]o the extent Plaintiffs are forced to hypothesize about ways in which their conduct might violate statutes if those statutes are interpreted and construed to acknowledge the equal rights of the unborn, it is precisely because the [Interpretation Policy] puts them at the mercy of the State’s discretion, in violation of their due process rights.”

The court concluded that the due to the “unconstitutional vagueness” of the word “acknowledge,” the plaintiffs had a strong likelihood of prevailing, making an emergency injunction appropriate until the case has been heard. This order only affects the “personhood” law and not the other abortion laws on Arizona’s books.

Civia Tamarkin, President of National Council of Jewish Women Arizona (one of the plaintiffs) celebrated the decision, saying, “It is a relief that Arizona’s personhood law has been blocked today. We are determined to fight the oppression and hypocrisy of laws that would grant constitutional rights to a developing fetus by denying them to the person carrying it.”

The Arizona State Attorney General’s office stated that the injunctive order “was based on an interpretation of Arizona law that our office did not agree with, and we are carefully considering our next steps.”