Catholic Bishops: Arizona Disability Abortion Ban will Protect Mothers and Unborn Babies

Any doctor performing an abortion will be required to complete an affadavit stating that they are not aborting the baby because of a nonlethal abnormality, and the doctor must inform the woman it is illegal to do so.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who has signed a law barring abortions based on non-fatal genetic disorders, speaks at an awards luncheon in Scottsdale, Ariz., June 17, 2019.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who has signed a law barring abortions based on non-fatal genetic disorders, speaks at an awards luncheon in Scottsdale, Ariz., June 17, 2019. (photo: Skidmore via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0))

TUCSON, Az. — The Catholic bishops of Arizona on Tuesday applauded the passage of an expansive state law that they say will help mothers and unborn children while saving lives.

SB 1457, signed into law April 27 by Gov. Doug Ducey, most notably prohibits abortions done solely because of a nonlethal genetic abnormality, such as Down syndrome. The state already prohibits race and sex-selective abortions. 

The law also confers to unborn children all civil rights afforded to born persons. 

“SB 1457 continues Arizona’s legacy as the most pro-life state in the country and establishes that Arizona’s laws will be interpreted in the context of valuing all human life,” the bishops of Arizona said in an April 27 statement. 

“This legislation looks forward to the day that Roe v. Wade is overturned and shows concern for both unborn children and their mothers.”

Arizona’s bishops include Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Tucson, Bishop Thomas Olmsted and Bishop Eduardo Nevares of Phoenix, Bishop James Wall of Gallup, and Bishop John Pazak of the Ruthenian Eparchy of Phoenix. 

Any doctor performing an abortion will be required to complete an affadavit stating that they are not aborting the baby because of a nonlethal abnormality, and the doctor must inform the woman it is illegal to do so. 

A doctor who performs an abortion because of a genetic abnormality will be charged with a felony unless it was done “in a medical emergency.” The woman on whom the abortion is performed will not be criminally liable. 

The new law also contains several other pro-life provisions, including a ban on public educational institutions, such as universities, performing abortions. It also will allow the father or maternal grandparent to sue if a child is aborted; and mandates the cremation or burial of fetal remains after an abortion, with the method chosen by the mother.  

The law also prohibits the delivery of abortion-inducing drugs — i.e. “the abortion pill” — through the mail, clarifying that a medical abortion may only be prescribed by a doctor after a 24-hour waiting period. 

“Arizona already has a statute on the books protecting human life from the moment of conception, and SB 1457 leaves this excellent statute in place while also not making the mother a criminal,” the bishops continued. 

“For all of the reasons above, we believe that SB 1457 will help mothers and their unborn babies, while saving lives. Accordingly, we are also appreciative of Senator Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, for sponsoring this bill and all of the legislators who voted in support,” the bishops concluded. 

The bill went through several revisions in the legislature, including an amendment that clarified that the “personhood” clause giving civil rights to unborn children does not amount to a ban on in-vitro fertilization in the state. 

After SB 1457 failed to pass initially several weeks ago, sponsors tweaked the language such that it narrowly passed, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats opposed. 

“Arizonans can be proud of a state that leads the way in protecting the preborn and caring for women facing unplanned pregnancies,” said Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, which helped write SB 1457. 

“Arizona children diagnosed with disabilities prior to birth will no longer be discriminated against. Arizona women will be ensured commonsense safeguards if they choose the abortion pill. Arizona taxpayers will not be forced to support abortions at public colleges and universities, and the laws of Arizona will be interpreted to value all human life.”

Bishop Peter Chung Soon-Taick.

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